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"Punishment," by Seamus Heaney

Author: Seamus Heaney

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I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.

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It blows her nipples
to amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs.

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

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

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

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

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

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I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeur

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of your brains exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles’ webbing
and all your numbered bones:

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

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

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DMU Timestamp: March 29, 2019 18:11

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