Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Digging a Well

Jim Richards
From Prairie Schooner, Vol. 86, No. 1 (Spring 2012)

By hand, with a blunted pickax,
a plastic bucket, and a sledge—
a spade’s no good in stony ground.
Six feet, and still no water.
Moses struck the rock and bliss
gushed out, not blood from blisters,
not curses from a cracked tongue.
Each strike I make makes more rock.
Tell my wife the kids can lick
the dust from my boots to quench
their thirst. I have visions of her
giving suck and powder coming out.
Seven feet. Might as well be seventy
times seven. How the devil’s a man
to drink? Drive the pick into his heart?
A well without water is a tomb.