The Historians

Eavan Boland

Say the word history: I see
your mother, mine.
The light sober, the summer well over,
an east wind dandling leaves, rain stirring at the kerb.

Their hands are full of words.
One of them holds your father’s journal with its note
written on the day you were born.
The other my small rhymed scratchings, my fervent letters.
Before the poem ends,
they will have burned them all.

Now say the word again. Summon
our island: a story that needed to be told –
the patriots still bleeding in the lithographs
when we were born. Those who wrote that story
laboured to own it.

But these are women we loved.
Record-keepers with a different task.
To stop memory becoming history.
To stop words healing what should not be healed.

It is cold. The light is going.
They kneel now behind their greenhouses,
beneath whichever tree is theirs.

The leaves shift down.
Each of them puts a match to the paper. Then
they put their hands close to the flame.
They feel the first bite of the wind.
They lace their pages with fire. I finish writing.


‘The Historians’ appears in The Historians (Carcanet Press, October 2020)

Page 73, Poetry Ireland Review 131

Poetry Ireland Review 131:

Edited by Colette Bryce

Pride of place in Poetry Ireland Review 131, edited by Colette Bryce, is given to two as-yet-unpublished poems from Eavan Boland's final collection, The Historians, along with ‘Remembering Eavan’, Jody Allen Randolph’s poignant tribute to the poet. The issue also contains new work from Derek Mahon, Leontia Flynn, Harry Clifton, Dairena Ní Chinnéide, and Colm Tóibín, along with the emerging voices of Sree Sen, Nithy Kasa, Audrey Molloy, Padraig Regan, and many others.

The review section includes Maria Johnston examining new work from Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin as poet and as Ireland Chair of Poetry: Vona Groarke assessing Deryn Rees-Jones and Jericho Brown; and Julie Morrissy reviewing Jane Clarke, Simon Lewis, and Breda Wall Ryan.

Also included in this issue are six 'pandemic postcards' from Irish poets based in Ireland and in Britain, six different takes on attempting to live the creative and the lockdown life. Other noteworthy contributions include Ben Keatinge's survey of surrealism in Irish poetry, while Alex Pryce's interview with Sinéad Morrissey takes the poet through her back pages, from There Was Fire In Vancouver  to Selected Poems. And John Short's artwork features vivid watercolours of staycation swimming spots within two kilometres of his studio.