The Colonists

To hear Eavan Boland read “The Colonists,” click here.

I am ready to go home

through an autumn evening.


without any warning, I can see them.

They form slowly out of the twilight.

Their faces. Arms. Greatcoats. And tears.

They are holding maps.

But the pages are made of failing daylight.

Their tears, made of dusk, fall across the names.

Although they know by heart

every inch and twist of the river

which runs through this town, and their houses–

every aspect of the light their windows found–

they cannot find where they come from:

The river is still there.

But not their town.

The light is there. But not their moment in it.

Nor their memories. Nor the signs of life they made.

Then they faded.

And the truth is I never saw them.

If I had I would have driven home

through an ordinary evening, knowing

that not one street name or sign or neighbourhood

could be trusted

to the safe-keeping

of the making and unmaking of a people.

And have entered a house I might never

find again, and have written down–

as I do now

their human pain. Their ghostly weeping.