Mise Éire

I won’t go back to it –

my nation displaced

into old dactyls,

oaths made

by the animal tallows

of the candle—


land of the Gulf Stream,

the small farm,

the scalded memory,

the songs

that bandage up the history,

the words

that make a rhythm of the crime


where time is time past.

A palsy of regrets.

No. I won’t go back.

My roots are brutal:


I am the woman—

a sloven

a mix

of silk at the wrists;

a sort of dove-strut

in the precincts of the garrison—


who practices

the quick frictions,

the rictus of delight

and gets cambric for it,

rice-colored silks.


I am the woman

in the gansy-coat

on board the Mary Belle,

in the huddling cold,


holding her half-dead baby to her

as the wind shifts East

and North over the dirty

water of the wharf


mingling the immigrant

gutterual with the vowels

of homesickness who neither

knows nor cares that


a new language

is a kind of scar

and heals after a while

into a passable imitation

of what went before.


–Eavan Boland