Friday, November 25, 2011

"Beautiful rifts in time" ~ Eavan Boland

I'd never tried a pomegranate until I was an adult.  I remember in elementary school that every year at about this time, here at latitude 53, at the beginning of our long wintering, a particular girl would bring one, and eat it very slowly in front of us all. Even more slowly than one usually eats a pomegranate.  And never did she offer.

R. painted me a large painting which hung over my desk until we moved (now there is a window over my desk) and it's now in the sitting room, over the couch.  It also graces the cover of my first book.  It's a magnificent painting, and the fruit really is god-sized.

Well, yesterday was tea and pomegranates and poetry.  I couldn't resist taking so many shots of the pomegranate.....the light was perfect and the shiny red seeds are so beautiful.  Tiny rifts in time.

Eavan Boland is one of my favorite poets.  I started with Outside History, because it was a text in a course I took in my undergrad. Because I expressed an interest, the fabulous professor (Heather Zwicker) of this course one day filled my arms with articles, poems, books, so that I was able to immerse myself in the work of a single poet.  Which doesn't happen that often at the undergraduate level I don't imagine. These moments of enthusiasm and care are quite extraordinary and stay with one always.

by Eavan Boland

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 read it first and at first I was
an exiled child in the crackling dusk of
the underworld, the stars blighted.  Later
I walked out in a summer twilight
searching for my daughter at bed-time.
When she came running I was ready
to make any bargain to keep her.
I carried her back past whitebeams
and wasps and honey-scented buddleias.
But I was Ceres then and I knew
winter was in store for every leaf
on every tree on that road.
Was inescapable for each one we passed.
And for me.
                    It is winter
and the stars are hidden.
I climb the stairs and stand where I can see
my child asleep beside her teen magazines,
her can of Coke, her plate of uncut fruit.
The pomegranate!  How did I forget it?
She could have come home and been safe
and ended the story and all
our heart-broken searching but she reached
out a hand and plucked a pomegranate.
She put out her hand and pulled down
the French sound for apple and 
the noise of stone and the proof
that even in the place of death,
at the heart of legend, in the midst
of rocks full of unshed tears
ready to be diamonds by the time
the story was told, a child can be
hungry.  I could warn her.  There is still a chance.
The rain is cold.  The road is flint-coloured.
The suburb has cars and cable television.
The veiled stars are above ground.
It is another world.  But what else
can a mother give her daughter but such
beautiful rifts in time?
If I defer the grief I will diminish the gift.
The legend will be hers as well as mine.  
She will enter it.  As I have.
She will wake up.  She will hold
the papery flushed skin in her hand.
And to her lips.  I will say nothing.

Say nothing...

Some soul cake for you:

1 comment:

  1. What an astonishing poem. I love Boland's work -- her essays are particularly fine -- but hadn't read this. Thank you for it.


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