I think of that black cat on the Street of the Knights,
how its thirst forced it to don a suit of armour
and approach the public tap from which no water came
but the smell of water which the cat stretched up to and licked
and licked. I was walking down the Street of the Knights
one last time, in my own shining moment, the hour gilded,
the light blowing about in drifts of glazed amber.
I approached the cat and turned on the tap one drop at a time
till the flow was right for the animal whose thirst had made it brave,
so that it continued to drink even when a boy approached, enchanted,
and it continued to drink even when the boy’s mother began filming
her son’s enchantment with the cat drinking from the tap.
The cat closed its eyes to the clear joy of the drops which contained
all it ever wanted to understand or own of the world.
And then I saw that the boy was smiling at me, was enchanted
also by me, the woman in the long black dress on a day of hot sun,
guarding an animal whose thirst he had never before witnessed
or considered. Looking from me to the cat, the cat to me,
the boy absorbed the moment in its entirety, the complete sphere of it,
and questions formed in his mind about the gravity of thirst.
And though his mother moved him on before any words were spoken,
when I think of the boy I think of him stretching up towards his questions
and receiving the answers – as we all do – drop by drop.
Helen Farish’s most recent collection of poems is The Dog of Memory, 2016