by Eavan Boland
It is the immodesty we bring to these
names which have eased into hours, and
their graves in the alcove of twilight,
which shadows their exile:
There is a flattery in being a destination.
There is a vanity in being the last resort.
They fled the Edict of Nantes–
hiding their shadows on the roads from France–
and now under brambles and granite
faith lies low with the lives it
dispossessed, and the hands it emptied out,
and the sombre dances they were joined in.
The buses turn right at Stephen’s Green.
Car exhaust and sirens fill the air. See
the planted wildness of their rest and
grant to them the least loves asks of
the living. Say: they had another life once.
And think of them as they first heard of us–
huddled around candles and words failing as
the stubborn tongue of the South put
oo and an to the sounds of Dublin,
and of their silver fingers at the windowsill
in the full moon as they leaned out
to breath the sweet air of Nimes
for the last time, and the flame
burned down in a dawn agreed upon
for their heart-broken leave-taking. And
for their sakes, accept in that moment,
this city with its colours of sky and day–
and which is dear to us and particular–
was not a place to them: merely
the one witty step ahead of hat which
is all that they could keep. Or stay.