Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing that makes water,
and nobody knows what that is.

–D. H. Lawrence

Monday, November 12, 2012

the water diviner


Late, I have come to a parched land   
doubting my gift, if gift I have,   
the inspiration of water
spilt, swallowed in the sand.

To hear once more water trickle,   
to stand in a stretch of silence
the divining pen twisting in the hand:   
sign of depths alluvial.

Water owns no permanent shape,   
sags, is most itself descending;
now, under the shadow of the idol,   
dry mouth and dry landscape.

No rain falls with a refreshing sound   
to settle tubular in a well,
elliptical in a bowl. No grape
lusciously moulds it round.

Clouds have no constant resemblance   
to anything, blown by a hot wind,   
flying mirages; the blue background,   
light constructions of chance.

To hold back chaos I transformed   
amorphous mass—and fire and cloud—   
so that the agèd gods might dance   
and golden structures form.

I should have built, plain brick on brick,   
a water tower. The sun flies on
arid wastes, barren hells too warm   
and me with a hazel stick!

Rivulets vanished in the dust
long ago, great compositions
vaporized, salt on the tongue so thick   
that drinking, still I thirst.

Repeated desert, recurring drought,   
sometimes hearing water trickle,   
sometimes not, I, by doubting first,   
believe; believing, doubt.
–Dannie Abse


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