Water Poems

By Ruth Padel

Water Museum

You stockpile umbrellas and radiators, a heap of mad grins
reminding you of so many school mornings

with fog pearls, breath pearls, wetting your regulation scarf
as you walk from the station

on small, red bricks, the outside trim
of a pink cement pavement

past ice-sheaths of reeds round a swan’s nest.
And the swan’s bride, a tissue ballerina, haunting the mist.

Water is Company

You close your eyes and wait for the augury,
sing to the brook while the balancing self
flies out and away like a bird
from a broken branch.

Your hands shake like rags in a gale.
With a hollow sound like a breaking pot,
wind whips the lake into bubble-froth
soap-suds, blocking the drain.

Water Diviner

Down here you’re with the possible
pre-verbal life: that holy well
with skeletons at the bottom.

You’re not looking for fool’s gold,
that pretence at understanding
dredging the sea bed

or covering mirrors
so you can’t see spirits of the dead.
You want the real thing, don’t you?

You are that generation. Insight,
second sight, the view over the loch
from on high, where you can stand in the wind

observing the Gulf Stream, the green sky foam
that was Aurora Borealis
and the two hundred and fifty million year core

of the Chacaltaya Glacier,
once the highest ski resort on earth
now a fossil-feather memory, a shingle

where its through-flow ice
gave up the ghost.
Gone in the blink of an eye.

Water Tells Stories

I am your melted snowman, drops
from a baby’s bath, the first rain
of the monsoon, a sacred draught

from Mother Ganges, the Ford of Brahmaputra
where pilgrims keep an eye out
for the man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag.

I am water from the moon, water pressure
you don’t want to mess with, moisture
round the unbroken seal on Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Water is Boundary

Who will remember you at the hour of your birth
when the wind changed and the owl in the chimney
swung back in its cowl?

What flows from you to me floods back
to make you afraid of everything you said.
Where have your own words been,

what is this owl-gaze into the soul,
the glug glug glug of between?
As if you knew too much

and all that erudition
has alchemized
to the Tarot Pack of the Inquisition.

The Water Dictionary

I’m a word which means storm
but also men with a problem.

I’m the mystery adjective, the wham of the fountain
released by one hoof-thud from Pegasus,

the diminuendo
of a waterfall in thinning rainforest,

the musical structure of splash, shimmer,
lapping and licks, the music of what happens

when you open up a hoard
of unclaimed body parts.

Water Pressure

I am fall-out from the storm
of dust, gas and shock waves
when a star is born, but my courses speak
to new understandings of the soul.

My ruffled means threat
when a young man lifts an AK 47
and gives his life to jihad.
I am the inside appearing outside,

the Anglo Saxon for tempest
and imagination both at once.
I’m the place where you’re never
in place. You have to dive in.

Ruth Sophia Padel FRSL FZS is a British poet, novelist and non-fiction author, in whose work “the journey is the stepping stone to lyrical reflections on the human condition”. She is known for her poetic explorations of migration, and of science; also for her involvement in music, wildlife conservation, and Greece, ancient and modern. She is Trustee for conservation charity New Networks for Nature and has served on the board of the Zoological Society of London. In 2013 she joined King’s College London, where she is Professor of Poetry.

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