Saturday, March 13, 2010

Stealing from Eavan (again)

I swear, if I have another child-- on my own-- and it's a girl, the name Eavan is on the short list. Eavan, Brigid, Aoife, Bernadette. But mostly I want a little Kit, named for her great-grandmother, who I feel giving me a lot of strength these days. Kit was my grandmother's hockey nickname. She wasn't a Catherine, as I am, since Kit is a common nickname for Catherine. She was like a "cat" on the ice when she lived in the Soo, so the nickname stuck. That should give more than an adequate idea of how feisty she was. She also became a single parent when my mother was six, although because of a tragic accident. Although one might argue this is a tragic accident too. Hers was different though: her husband, an esteemed general surgeon, was killed by two drunk teenagers who ran a stop sign. He was thrown from the car and the car landed on top of him. 1956. But still, she had to buck up some strength and she spent a lot of her life with me showing me how to do that CAPABLE thing. She's watching me now.

So, tonight I read some Eavan Boland, the poet who has spoken so closely to me. Last night I listened to her read on my way home from the Pistons game. It was breathtaking, so tonight I'm back to her work. I know going from the brief synopsis of my grandmother's life to this poem seems like a non sequitur, there is a strand-- See if you might spot it.

The New Pastoral

The first man had flint to spark. He had a wheel
to read his world.

I'm in the dark.

I'm a lost, last inhabitant--
displaced person
in a pastoral chaos.

All day I listen to
the loud distress, the switch and tick of
new herds.

But I'm no shepherdess.

Can I unbruise these sprouts or cleanse this mud flesh
till it roots again?
Can I make whole
this lamb's knuckle, butchered from its last crooked suckling?

I could be happy year,
I could be something more than a refugee

were it not for this lamb unsuckled, for the nonstop
switch and tick
telling me

there was a past
there was a pastoral,
and these chance sights

are little more than
amnesias of a rite

I danced once on a frieze.

--Eavan Boland


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