07 May 2015

Poetry Thursday - Water by Carol Ann Duffy


Your last word was water,
which I poured in a hospice plastic cup, held
to your lips – your small sip, half‑smile, sigh –
then, in the chair beside you,
                                                     fell asleep.

Fell asleep for three lost hours,
only to waken, thirsty, hear then see
a magpie warn in a bush outside –
dawn so soon – and swallow from your still-full cup.

Water. The times I'd call as a child
for a drink, till you'd come, sit on the edge
of the bed in the dark, holding my hand,
just as we held hands now and you died.
A good last word.

                                Nights since I've cried, but gone
to my own child's side with a drink, watched
her gulp it down then sleep. Water.
What a mother brings
                                       through darkness still
to her parched daughter.

 ---Carol Ann Duffy

Of this poem, one reviewer of "The Bees", the 2012 book in which it appears, said: " "Water" is perfectly controlled, yet written with what could almost be mistaken for casualness. It carries its emotional weight effortlessly. It acknowledges three generations, needing one another in ordinary ways. The "parched" at the end is beautiful and unlaboured. In every sense, it holds water."

Carol Ann Duffy (b.1955) is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Britain's Poet Laureate in May 2009. She is the first woman [says Wikipedia], the first Scot, and the first openly LGBT person to hold the position. "She was a passionate reader from an early age, and always wanted to be a writer, producing poems from the age of 11." And published at 15 by the bookseller Bernard Stone. Her first poem as Poet Laureate tackled the MPs' expenses scandal in the form of a sonnet.

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