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"I owned these beads once. I was always struck by how dark they were at first and then how quickly they took in light. Amethyst is a quartz and quartzes have such a mysterious existence on this planet, seamed into rocks and even taking in some radiation as they form. Thinking about that, it somehow didn't seem too much of a stretch to migrate from the world to the underworld here."
—Eavan Boland

Amethyst Beads

Eavan Boland, 1944

And when I take them out of
the cherrywood box these beads are
the colour of dog-violets in shadow. Then
at the well of the throat where
tears start
they darken. Now I wear at my neck an old stress
of crystal: an impression of earthly housekeeping.
A mysterious brightness
made underground where there is no sun
only stories of a strayed child and her mother bargaining
with a sullen king. Promising and arguing: 
what she can keep, what she can let him have. Shadows 
and the season violets start up in are part of 
the settlement. Stolen from such a place
these beads cannot be anything 
but wise to the healing arts of compromise,
of survival. And when I wear them it is almost
as if my skin was taking into itself
a medicine of light. Something like the old simples.
Rosemary, say, or tansy.
Or camomile which they kept
to cool fever. Which they once used to soothe a child
tossing from side to side, beads of sweat catching 
and holding a gleam from the vigil lamp. 
A child crying out in her sleep
Wait for me. Don’t leave me here.
Who will never remember this.
Who will never remember this. 

Copyright © 2013 by Eavan Boland. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on December 24, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Eavan Boland. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on December 24, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Eavan Boland

Eavan Boland

Eavan Boland was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1944. Her father

by this poet

poem
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
poem
How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city—arches, pillars, colonnades, 
not to mention vehicles and animals—had all 
one fine day gone under?

I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then.
Surely a great city must have been missed?
I miss our old city —

white pepper, white pudding,
poem
The only legend I have ever loved is
the story of a daughter lost in hell.
And found and rescued there.
Love and blackmail are the gist of it.
Ceres and Persephone the names.
And the best thing about the legend is
I can enter it anywhere.  And have.
As a child in exile in
a city of fogs and strange consonants,
I