Saturday, March 29

How they Punished "Little adultress" in Heaney's words


The Punishment(1975)

I can feel the tug
Of the halter at the nape
Of her neck, the wind
On her naked front
.

In blows her nipples
To amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs
.

I can see her drowned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rods and boughs
.

Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
oak-bone, brain-firkin
:

her shaved head
like a stubble of black corn,
her blindfold a soiled bandage,
her noose a ring

to store
the memories of love.
Little adulteress,
before they punish you

you were flaxen –haired,
undrernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat
,

I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeur
of your brain’s exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles webbing
and all your numbered bones
:

I who have stood dumb
when your betraying sisters,
cauled in tar,
wept by the railings
,

who would connive
in civilized outrage
yet understand the exact
and tribal, intimate revenge
.

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