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The Saturday Poem: The Long Evenings of their Leavetakings

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by Eavan Boland

My mother was married by the water.
She wore a grey 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 harbour.

Icy promises rose beside a cross-hatch 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.

• From New and Selected Poems, published by Carcanet, RRP £12.95. To order a copy for £X.XX with free UK p&p go to guardianbookshop.co.uk or call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846.


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