Ode to Suburbia

By Eavan Boland b. 1944 Eavan Boland
Six o'clock: the kitchen bulbs which blister   
Your dark, your housewives starting to nose   
Out each other's day, the claustrophobia   
Of your back gardens varicose
With shrubs, make an ugly sister
Of you suburbia.

How long ago did the glass in your windows subtly   
Silver into mirrors which again
And again show the same woman
Shriek at a child? Which multiply
A dish, a brush, ash,
The gape of a fish.

In the kitchen, the gape of a child in the cot?   
You swelled so that when you tried
The silver slipper on your foot
It pinched your instep and the common   
Hurt which touched you made
You human.

No creature of the streets will feel the touch   
Of a wand turning the wet sinews
Of fruit suddenly to a coach,
While this rat without leather reins
Or a whip or britches continues
Sliming your drains.

No magic here. Yet you encroach until   
The shy countryside, fooled
By your plainness falls, then rises   
From your bed changed, schooled   
Forever by your skill,
Your compromises.

Midnight and your metamorphosis   
Is now complete, although the mind   
Which spinstered you might still miss   
Your mystery now, might still fail   
To see your power defined
By this detail.

By this creature drowsing now in every house—
The same lion who tore stripes
Once off zebras. Who now sleeps,
Small beside the coals. And may,
On a red letter day,
Catch a mouse.

Eavan Boland, "Ode to Suburbia" from An Origin Like Water: Collected Poems 1967-1987. Copyright © 1996 by Eavan Boland. Used by permission of the author and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Source: Collected Poems (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1995)

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Poet Eavan Boland b. 1944


Subjects Home Life, Relationships

 Eavan  Boland


Eavan Boland was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1944. The daughter of a diplomat and a painter, Boland spent her girlhood in London and New York, returning to Ireland to attend secondary school in Killiney and later university at Trinity College in Dublin. Though still a student when she published her first collection, 23 Poems (1962), Boland’s early work is informed by her experiences as a young wife and mother, and her growing . . .

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SUBJECT Home Life, Relationships


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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