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Egyptian woman with water jug by the River Nile


1900s / 1902
At the Well

 

Today, the feel of water

against my skin

brings no pleasure as it once did.

My husband dead,

 

my heart has become cold

like this water,

the heat from the desert

can no longer warm it.

 

I would like to drop this jug

and watch it smash to pieces

on the hardened ground,

like the shards

 

of earthenware that mark

my husband’s grave in the fig grove.

Such fragments of baked clay

are how we hold to our dead.

 

Our son, our daughters

and Ahmed his friend,

who grieves as much as any,

each carry a piece with them.

 

But our store of memories

and all the stories Ahmed tells

in the house each evening,

will not return him to us.

 

Here at the well, beside

the red sands that he loved,

I feel this jug grow heavy in my hands,

try imagine him here with me again.

 

But his face will not hold,

shifts in my mind like the shifting

sands of my loss, the silence

of the emptied rooms of our house.

 

The moon hangs above

the gathering dunes like my

bloated heart and longing bones,

as I begin my journey home

 

as nightfall comes.

 

 

© Noel Duffy

Picture 10985608, illustration by Norman H Hardy, 1900s

 

 

Noel Duffy’s debut collection In the Library of Lost Objects was published by Ward Wood Publishing, London, in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Shine/Strong Award for best first collection by an Irish poet. His second collection On Light & Carbon followed in autumn 2013. His poetry has appeared widely, including in The Irish Times, The Financial Times and Poetry Ireland Review, and has been broadcast on RTE Radio 1 and BBC Radio 4. His latest collection, Summer Rain, appeared in 2016, again with Ward Wood. A fourth collection, Street Light Amber, will be published in spring 2019.