Friday, May 30, 2008

Quarantine by Eavan Boland

Here's a tough, brilliant poem from one of our finest contemporary poets. I love the turn at the start of the fourth stanza.


Quarantine

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.


Eavan Boland was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1944. She is the author of many books and currently teaches at Stanford University.

38 Comments:

Blogger JackieD said...

Beautiful and touching, thank you.

6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, how are you?
I enjoyed your poem very much.
Promoting love from a cultivated, earned, respected, unconditional exchange of hearts, is a lesson for us all to be learned.
Should you care to explore another blog, please feel free to visit mine. In any case, I will remain a fan of yours. Thank you

6:39 PM  
Blogger jasmine.celion said...

heart touching

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Blogger Darshan Chande said...

Great poem. Enjoyed reading. Thanks for sharing :)

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Blogger Flor de Insensatez said...

scott, nice your blog.
i have a similar one where i publish poems that cross my way.
it is called buca l'umbrello
(http://bucalumbrello.blogspot.com/) because d.h.lawrence once said (in chaos in poetry) that we live in an artificial world which is like an umbrella covering chaos which is underneath. poems are suppose to punch the umbrella. i will make a link to your blog in buca l'umbrello now.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Chandini said...

Many of us write of love as though it is the first and the last emotion on earth.
This one took my breath away.
I have written a poem on death. Comments show that its good. If you want to look it up I am listing my blog here.
http://chandinisantosh@blogspot.com

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Anonymous Taylor said...

Great site. Been looking for something like this awhile now. Started my own blog recently so I've been looking at what other people are doing lately. So good work and thanks for sharing!!

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Blogger tomale said...

I can't tell you how many poems I have read lately on the internet--many of them written by people connected to university English depts--that have left me not so much cold as baffled, puzzled, non-plussed,disgusted--the list goes on.This poem is not one of those.

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Blogger Digital Canvas Print said...

Great poems. Keep up the good work.


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Blogger pip said...

I just discovered this poet a couple of weeks ago while perusing my local book store and coming across her New Collected Poems which just came out in North America. If you see it buy it immediately. It is a treasure trove of language and insight. If Seamus Heaney were a female this be he.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Quarantine' has always been one of my favorite of Boland's poems. Thanks for posting it. But a question: I don't think that's her picture you're showing. Maybe you could check again.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, that's true. That is certainly not her picture. There's also a bit of intentional indentation patterning that Boland uses that you may want to include.

Otherwise, it's nice to see this poem being passed around. Certainly one of Boland's finest.

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