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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