A Woman Painted on a Leaf

Eavan Boland

I found it among curios and silver.
In the pureness of wintry light.

A woman painted on a leaf.

Fine lines drawn on a veined surface
In a handmade frame.

This is not my face. Neither did I draw it.

A leaf falls in a garden.
The moon cools its aftermath of sap.
The pith of summer dries out in starlight.

A woman is inscribed there.

This is not death. It is the terrible
Suspension of life.

I want a poem
I can grow old in. I want a poem I can die in.

I want to take

This dried-out face,
As you take a starling from behind iron,
And return it to its element of air,
Of ending–

So that Autumn
Which was once
The hard look of stars,
The frown on a gardener’s face,
A gradual bronzing of the distance,

Will be,
From now on,
A crisp tinder underfoot. Cheekbones. Eyes. Will be
A mouth crying out. Let me.

Let me die.

Eavan Boland (1944–2020) was an Irish poet who wrote dozens of volumes of poetry and prose over the course of her distinguished career. She taught for many years at Stanford University.
Originally published:
February 22, 2024

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