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This article is taken from PN Review 220, Volume 41 Number 2, November - December 2014.

A Woman Without a Country Eavan Boland

This sequence is dedicated to
those who lost a country, not
by history or inheritance, but
 through a series of questions
   to which they could find
           no answer.

Sea Change

What did he leave me, my grandfather,
Who lost his life in a spring tempest
At the Chaussée des Pierres Noires
At the edge of Biscay?

With his roof of half-seen stars
His salty walls rising high and higher
To the last inch of the horizon
He built nothing that I could live in.

His door of cresting water,
His low skies skidding on the waves
His seaman’s windows giving on
Iridescent plankton never amounted to home,

And no one lay at night
Seeing these unfold in their minds with
That instinct of amendment history allows
Instead of memory.

I was born in a place, or so it seemed,
Where every inch of ground
Was a new fever or a field soaked
To its grassy roots with remembered hatreds.

Where even if I turned to legerdemain
To bring land and ocean together,
Saying water-meadow to myself for instance,
The distances remained.

A spring night in Dublin.
Neap tide on the Irish sea.
To the north of here in the Garden of Remembrance
The dead are defined by their relation to land.


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