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.


Originally published in the January 1994 edition of The Yale Review, vol. 82.1.