Not artesian (from the province of Artois
in northern France), but arterial: a cleft
chipped by nature into the jutting jaw
of the cliff’s ruddy face—a cut as deft
and subtle as a surgical incision
(the scalpel’s aim true as a bull’s-eye dart),
a vein tapped with such pinpoint precision,
straight to the water table’s pulsing heart.
How our day stood still when we sought to quell
thirst’s flame on drought-hot afternoons, quaffing
from a mother-of-pearl lined quahog shell
teeth-shivering draughts from that silver spring.
We fancied once the trickle from that rust-
red bluff Ponce de León’s Fountain of Youth.
Now, the atrophy of years an ash-like dust,
our fingertips divine the bone-dry truth.
Thomas O’Grady was born and grew up on Prince Edward Island. He is currently Director of Irish Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. His book of poems What Really Matters was published in 2000 by McGill-Queen’s University Press. (updated 2002)