Water

I wonder when the plain taste of this water
Will pass for the last time, not to repeat itself,
And the glass tumbler will finally leave
My lips unparted by its heavy rim.

Forty years since he went without a word,
Collapsing in a startled stranger’s arms,
The appearance of comedy played out on a platform
Of the station in a northern conference town.

I wonder when I will fold away the letter,
The one he must have sent that autumn morning
And which arrived the day after I heard
From the modern but still inadequate headmaster.

Forty days of shock, said my mother’s doctor,
Take a couple of these last thing at night.
I wonder when the plain taste of this water
Will pass for the last time, not to repeat itself.

Drinking and drying have their own convergence,
Making current shapes which shed their forms.
At every drought the spires of rubble show
From the small town which the reservoir overran.

I wonder when the uncovering of sadness
Will break its habit of bringing into range
A shallow dish of something slurping sideways
And the clunk of cutlery on refectory wood.

Time out of town still wears its blameless face
As sheep sharpen the crescent blade of the hill
And headwaters muster underneath the ground
And streams shift slowly into stone.

In the pavement puddle almost as thin
As the skin on a cup of tea the petrol rainbow
Is standing at my shoulder while the wobbly
Moonface waits and waits to recompose.

Salt and woodgrain, rain again and guttering,
Trees divesting, drain leaf litanies.
I wonder when the plain taste of this water
Will pass for the last time, not to repeat itself.

(Water was winner of the Southport International Poetry Competition in 2005.)

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