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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Where language starts

“Poetry begins where language starts: in the shadows and accidents of one person's life.”  Eavan Boland
Born on this date in 1944, Boland is an Irish poet, author, and professor at Stanford University, where she has taught since 1996.  Her work deals with the Irish national identity, and the role of women in Irish history.   
                       Over the course of her long career, Boland has emerged as one of the foremost female voices in Irish literature. Her collection Night Feed established her reputation as a writer on the ordinary lives of women, and her work In a Time of Violence received a Lannan Award and was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize.    For Saturday’s Poem, here is Boland’s,

The Black Lace Fan My Mother Gave Me

It was the first gift he ever gave her,
buying it for five five francs in the Galeries
in pre-war Paris. It was stifling.
A starless drought made the nights stormy.

They stayed in the city for the summer.
The met in cafes. She was always early.
He was late. That evening he was later.
They wrapped the fan. He looked at his watch.

She looked down the Boulevard des Capucines.
She ordered more coffee. She stood up.
The streets were emptying. The heat was killing.
She thought the distance smelled of rain and lightning.

These are wild roses, appliqued on silk by hand,
darkly picked, stitched boldly, quickly.
The rest is tortoiseshell and has the reticent clear patience
of its element. It is
a worn-out, underwater bullion and it keeps,
even now, an inference of its violation.
The lace is overcast as if the weather
it opened for and offset had entered it.

The past is an empty cafe terrace.
An airless dusk before thunder. A man running.
And no way to know what happened then—
none at all—unless ,of course, you improvise:

The blackbird on this first sultry morning,
in summer, finding buds, worms, fruit,
feels the heat. Suddenly she puts out her wing—
the whole, full, flirtatious span of it.

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