Poetry Corner: Quarantine

Whilst we are currently living lives which shall soon feel very different from that of just a few weeks ago; it’s hopefully reassuring to know that we live in far more advanced times than in 1847 during the famine fever. #BeKind 



by Eavan Boland

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.

1 reply »

  1. One of my Great-Grannies died of famine fever. Great-Grandpa re-married, from which union came my mother’s family.
    The whole family story would have been different – different individuals born – taking different paths in life – had she lived.
    It was what was to be.

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