The Long Evenings of Their Leavetakings

By Eavan Boland b. 1944 Eavan Boland
My mother was married by the water.
She wore a gray coat and a winter rose.

She said her vows beside a cold seam of the Irish coast.

She said her vows near the shore where
the emigrants set down their consonantal n:

on afternoon, on the end of everything, at the start of ever.

Yellow vestments took in light.
A chalice hid underneath its veil.

Her hands were full of calla and cold-weather lilies.

The mail packet dropped anchor.
A black-headed gull swerved across the harbor.

Icy promises rose beside a crosshatch of ocean and horizon.

I am waiting for the words of the service. I am waiting for
keep thee only and all my earthly.

All I hear is an afternoon’s worth of never.

Source: Poetry (April 2013).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2013
 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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, Marriage & Companionship, Love, Realistic & Complicated, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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