ACHILL WOMAN—EAVAN BOLAND. I told Nick that I was going to be posting about Achill Island, and he called my attention to Eavan Boland’s poem “Achill Woman.” Here is the poem:


She came up the hill carrying water.
She wore a half-buttoned, wool cardigan,
a tea-towel round her waist.

She pushed the hair out of her eyes with
her free hand and put the bucket down.

The zinc-music of the handle on the rim
tuned the evening. An Easter moon rose.
In the next-door field a stream was
a fluid sunset; and then, stars.

I remember the cold rosiness of her hands.
She bent down and blew them like broth.
And round her waist, on a white background,
in coarse, woven letters, the words “glass cloth.”

And she was nearly finished for the day.
And I was all talk, raw from college —
weekending at a friend’s cottage
with one suitcase and the set text
of the Court poets of the Silver Age.

We stayed putting down time until
the evening turned cold without warning.
She said goodnight and started down the hill.

The grass changed from lavender to black.
The trees turned back to cold outlines.
You could taste frost

but nothing now can change the way I went
indoors, chilled by the wind
and made a fire
and took down my book
and opened it and failed to comprehend

the harmonies of servitude,
the grace music gives to flattery
and language borrows from ambition —

and how I fell asleep
oblivious to

the planets clouding over in the skies,
the slow decline of the spring moon,
the songs crying out their ironies.

— Ms. Eavan BOLAND
“Outside History, selected poems 1980-1990,” (W.W. Norton 1990)

This article summarizes what Eavan Boland says about the poem in her book OBJECT LESSONS. It was her first poem. The woman was the first person to talk to her about the Famine. “To Boland, the Achill islander represents a lost world….”

I have ordered OBJECT LESSONS and Boland’s book of poems, OUTSIDE HISTORY from Amazon.

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  1. Nick says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed this. I actually took three courses with Professor Higgins, and Boland appeared in all three of them. I also learned that when she moved from Ireland to England as a young girl she was mocked for using the compound word “amn’t” for “am not.”

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