by Eavan Boland

About holiday rooms there can be
a solid feel at first. Then, as you go upstairs,
the air gets
a dry rustle of excitement

the way a new dress comes out of tissue paper,
up and out of it, and
the girl watching this thinks:
Where will I wear it? Who will kiss me in it?

was the name on the cot.
The cot was made of the carefully bought
scarcities of the nineteen-forties:
Oak. Tersely planned and varnished.
Cast-steel hinges.

I stood where the roof sloped into
paper roses,
in a room where a child went to sleep,
looking at blue, painted lettering:

as he slept
someone had found for him
five pieces of the alphabet which said
the mauve petals of his eyelids as they closed out
the scalded hallway moonlight made of the ocean at
the end of his road.

Someone knew
the importance of giving him a name.

For years I have known
how important it is
not to name
the coffins, the murdered in them,
the deaths in alleyways and on doorsteps–

in case they rise out of their names
and I recognize

the child who slept peacefully
and the girl who guessed at her future in
the dress as it came out of its box,
falling free in
kick pleats of silk.

And what comfort can there be
in knowing that
in a distant room
his sign is safe tonight
and reposes its modest blues in darkness?

Or that outside his window
the name-eating elements–the sald wind, the rain–
must find
headstones to feed their hunger?

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