Noel Duffy

On Light & Carbon

‘Where did it come from,
the tree?’ I asked.
‘It came up from the ground,’
the teacher said.
I believed him.

Later I read in a book
that it also grew in from the air,
the light trapping the carbon
from the atmosphere
and nailing it to each leaf
in turn through photosynthesis.
I was surprised.

‘Where did it come from,
the world?’ I asked.
‘It was born of God’s
Mercy and Love,’ the priest said.
I trusted him.

Later on TV, I saw
that it was made of stardust,
the elements scattered
through the heavens in supernova
to gather in a ball of light and fire
that gave us each our lives.
I was spell-bound.


She moves close, places
a shell in my hand, whispers,
‘Do you remember the sea,
the waves lapping at our feet,

the call of the gulls from above
the dunes? Our words?’
I press the shell close to my ear
but hear only the sound of the door

closing gently behind her, the faint
murmur of cars outside in the darkness,
the distant voices of our happiness lost
like the sea’s echo in the shell’s chamber.

Noel Duffy was born in Dublin in 1971 and studied Experimental Physics at Trinity College, Dublin. He co-edited (with Theo Dorgan) Watching the River Flow: A Century in Irish Poetry (Poetry Ireland/Poetry Society, 1999) and was the winner of the START Chapbook Prize in 2003 for his short chapbook The Silence After. His debut poetry collection In the Library of Lost Objects was published by Ward Wood in summer 2011 and was shortlisted for the 2012 Strong Award for Best First Collection by an Irish Poet.