I sit on a rock, perched the water, watching the people below, watch the water suck them down. And I write words because words are all I have.
I watch the ones who travel through the minefields. The gowned and masked ones with pictures of their faces printed on their chests. The ones who bring trays of food along corridors, who bring babies into the world, who talk to the distressed in soothing tones. who swab the throats of people who feel they are beginning to burn. And I write words, because words are all I have.
I watch the juggling ones, who balance a computer in one hand and a child in the other, whose phonecalls are punctuated by the shrieks of children, who must find ways to fill yawning gaps of time, who are expected to know all the answers, who search for a language to help little ones understand. And I write words because words are all I have.
I watch the ones who stand in empty churches or in small huddles by an open grave, denied their goodbye. All around them are empty spaces where people would stand, reaching out a hand. Instead, those people stand at gates, hold candles, watch ceremonies on screens as they drive to work in faraway cities. And I write words, because words are all I have.
I watch the ones who stand by the roadside, their high-vis jackets a flare in the darkness, the ones who must say no, you can’t, turn back, what is the purpose of your journey, while their families wait at home. And I write words, because words are all I have.
I watch the ones in their cocoons: the travellers, the intrepid hillwalkers, the doughty dentists, the poets, the philosophers. The ones whose lines tell a tale, the ones whose years belie their vigour, the ones who must now rely on others, the ones that we strive to keep safe. And I write words because words are all I have.
I watch the ones in the aisles and at the tills, the ones who stock, restock, repeat, the ones who arrange food into gleaming piles, food that takes us back to our old lives for a brief moment. The ones who stand at the other end of shrill tirades, who must treat notes and coins as though they are grenades. And I write words, because words are all I have.
I wonder what twist of fate has allowed me to sit up here in the high and dry. I hold out my words to the ones in the water and hope they are enough. And when we are all back on the high and dry, I hope my words will help them make sense of the time they spent in the water, that my words will be a branch that will pull them to safety.
Derbhile Graham is a writer and creative writing tutor living by the sea in Tramore, Co. Waterford. She has published a novel, articles, short stories, memoir pieces and flash fiction under the name Derbhile Dromey. She is proud to be a member of Deise Writers in Waterford.