Noel Duffy was born in Dublin. His debut collection In the Library of Lost Objects was published by Ward Wood Publishing, London, in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Strong Award for best first collection by an Irish poet. His second collection On Light & Carbon followed in 2013, with his third Summer Rain appearing in 2016. His poetry has appeared widely, including in The Irish Times, The Financial Times and Poetry Ireland Review, and has been broadcast on RTE Radio 1 and BBC Radio 4. A new collection, Street Light Amber will be published in autumn 2019. Noel was the recipient of the Patrick & Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in poetry 2018.
The Last Day of Summer
Life must stop for an instant
before it continues, the moment
lived a second time in the room of memory,
a ghost image in the mind.
The sunlight shifts in the curtain lace,
your face framed by the window
as you raise your cigarette to your mouth,
then exhale, the smoke fluttering away
with the delicacy of silk turning
in a beam of light, the ash straining
backwards by the weight of its own gravity,
then falling down onto your dress
without you noticing
I empty my pockets on the kitchen table:
a parking ticket, house keys, loose change
from the supermarket, a business card
from a man who sells something I never wanted,
an empty pack of cigarettes and inhaler.
I open my wallet, find five crisp bank notes,
a passport booth snapshot photo of you
and me, huddled together and laughing –
this the debris of a life like some hidden message,
caution to the man who seeks redemption
in the triage of lost things laid out before him.
I wake to a sense of forgetfulness,
casually reaching to your side
of the bed to remember it empty.
I mourn for the world I thought existed,
the promise of us… I go back to a moment
before I met you: I walked across a field
and looked up. I saw the sky above me
and I was ecstatic to be living, to stare up
and have my heart blown open to the colour
of the midday blue, there in the lazy heat
of the summer afternoon. This, I learnt
from you also, though bodily at your hands
and you at mine: how love’s gifts and judgments
are beyond our knowledge and will outlive
our longing. I get up finally and go to the basin,
wash my face clean to the cold comfort of water;
towel dry my jaw and hold my stare –
this the daybreak hour.