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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