Talking to my Daughter Late at Night by Eavan Boland

by Vanessa

We have a tray, a pot of tea, a scone.
This is the hour
When one thing pours itself into another :
The gable of our house stored in shadow.
A spring planet bending ice
Into an absolute of light.
Your childhood ended years ago. There is
No path back to it. There is
No certainty I can find
The if or maybe that might remedy
An afternoon you walked up the hill
After school. In winter, in tears.
The fire smoulders down into cinders.
Lilac shivers in the March dark.
If love is a civilization,
As I once hoped it was,
And you and I are its living citizens
And if our words
Are less than rules and more than remedies
As we speak, maybe
Someone escapes from a wounded morning
In a small classroom and finds
The world is not stern, after all. Paper birds
Are folded and fly off in the playground.
And when lessons resume in the afternoon
The essay is easy. It is
A Day in the Life of a Penny.
Afterwards, at teatime, the sweets have old names –
Cinder Toffee Bullseye Marry Me Quick –
The children shout out and I listen
To hear your voice with theirs, but no
It’s here now telling me
How late the hour is, the birds almost up
And we smile at this
As we put the tray away,
Douse the fire and wash out the cups.

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