They didn’t trust the other country’s water,
the crystal ropes uncoiling from the faucets,
so they brought their own in plastic bottles
that vibrated on the cargo plane-cases
mounted on cases mounted on pallets.
In five gallon jugs they brought their own,
shouldered and flipped into a cooler
where the water babbled and released
ghostly balloons whenever a guard was thirsty.
Once it was snow until the sun pummeled it
down the mountain face. As witnessed
only by monumental pines, the water stretched
cellophane across the skulls of boulders.
It drove the fish forward-bug-eyed arrows.
The guards drank their own, but showered
with the country’s, mouths clamped
against any bacteria that fell upon their heads.
Some even distrusted the water
that boiled over the burner, the glistening peas,
the nubby, nail-less fingers of carrots.
Some believed the water was good
for one thing: to drench the cloth
pressed against the prisoner’s face.
The water seeped into the nostrils,
the burning lungs, until a human voice
sprung from below the hand, saying anything.
David Hernandez is the recipient of a 2011 NEA Literature Fellowship in Poetry. This poem is from his recent collection, Hoodwinked, which won the Kathryn A. Morton Prize and is now available from Sarabande Books.
*Photo courtesy of stockerre.