Amber - by Eavan Boland
It never mattered that there was once a vast grieving:
trees on their hillsides, in their groves, weeping—
a plastic gold dropping
through seasons and centuries to the ground—
On this fine September afternoon from which you are absent
I am holding, as if my hand could store it,
an ornament of amber
you once gave me.
Reason says this:
The dead cannot see the living.
The living will never see the dead again.
The clear air we need to find each other in is
gone forever, yet
this resin once
collected seeds, leaves and even small feathers as it fell
which now in a sunny atmosphere seem as alive as
they ever were
as though the past could be present and memory itself
a Baltic honey—
a chafing at the edges of the seen, a showing off of just how much
can be kept safe
inside a flawed translucence.
This remains one of my favorite of Boland's poems. Perhaps there is an urgency to explain grieving that I believe in. Perhaps it is that I am a lover of amber.
Is this an ekphrastic poem? It takes its inspiration from an object of the natural world and transforms that object into something beyond itself. I think of amber as a work of art created by water and earth's debris. At the moment I am preparing for a class on ekphrastic poetry and so examining what I mean when I use this term. More poems to come...