Quarantine

Eavan Boland

 
In the worst hour of the worst season
    of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking – they were both walking – north.
She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
     He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.
In the morning they were both found dead.
    Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.
Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
     There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:
Their death together in the winter of 1847.
      Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.
 
From New Collected Poems by Eavan Boland. Copyright © 2008 by Eavan Boland. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

Amethyst Beads by Eavan Boland
And when I take them out of
Atlantis—A Lost Sonnet by Eavan Boland
How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
The Pomegranate by Eavan Boland
The only legend I have ever loved is


Further Reading

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by Moya Cannon