The Guardians of
The Water
--- For Chris
They came in the middle of the night
--- three old men he'd seen at the bar
and thought nothing of ---
banging on the big wooden door,
asking for the señora,
not even meeting his eye.

His wife, wrapped in her dressing gown,
still tidying her hair with one hand,
spoke rapidly in Spanish,
and led them down to the kitchen.

Standing by the sink, he felt excluded,
just as he'd done at that bullfight,
the crowd seething round him,
his head aching from the heat,
the trembling bull, bloodied and exhausted,
collapsing in the dirt.

Then one of the old men produced a sledgehammer
--- from where he couldn't imagine ---
and with a soft thud
knocked a hole in the back wall.

In the semi-darkness he could hardly make them out,
the three of them
crouched by the white-edged hole,
muttering something about drought,
the old Arab water course that used to run below the house.

They said little as they left,
just grunted to his wife
and were gone.
He wanted to know who was going to pay for the plaster,
but his wife shrugged, said she was sleepy
and that she was going back to bed.

The next day, walking in the garden,
he was sure he could hear the sound of running water,
detect its clear metallic tang ---
like the smell of an English summer day after rain ---
among the hot scents of rosemary and thyme.

--- By Hugh Dunkerley
From Oxford Poets 2007:
An Anthology

David Constatine and Bernard O'Donoghue. Editors
 2007 Carcanet Press
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