What the Water Knows

Surprised by a rogue cloud
on a sunny day
rain splotches my shirt
and tosses huge drops on my hair.
I turn my face up
to catch sweet water in my mouth
and think about the water bearers.
For me there were five
who came from water
to teach me about poetry
and spirit.

A man taught me
how to catch lightning
from the storm
and coax it to dance
across the page.
A witch man
with a pentagram etched
on his gold ring
who shared his poetry
with old men in India
and knew more than I would ever learn.

One woman came from the plains
where water gathers behind small dams
in ponds to feed livestock.
She called them “tanks”
the way people do in short grass country
and appreciated their color
red and thick with clay
from the earth’s womb.
When she died
a jazz combo
played at her funeral
and we all knew she was dancing.

The next came
from Homer’s wine-dark sea
bearing his lines
as he had written them
in her memory and soul
her poetry sweet with cadence
and patience born
of a childhood nurtured in war,
where Ulysses words
were a code not understood
by soldiers in jack boots.

Then the meeting
with a woman whose bones
carried messages from
Abraham’s well
where Sarah drew water
in a dry land.
When we parted
I gathered wild sage
for her as a gift.

The last drinks deep
from the crystal lakes
of her Ojibwa ancestors
and knows the value
of both words and silence.

The water from all these
storm, pond, sea, well and lake
has risen in the cycle to float
to be released again to earth, river and ocean
aquifers to return again and again
to become part of my body
with lessons I learned
from the water bearers.

When I die
and my body
is reduced to only enough ashes
to fill a child’s shoe box
the water of me
will rise and separate
its molecules
to be gathered by clouds
perhaps to return
as a drop of rain
falling on a poet’s tongue.

Photo by Stephanie Lee, Semiprecious Salvage. Reprinted with permission.

Poem reprinted with permission from the book, Anger and Aloes, a collection of poems written by Janet M. Taliaferro.
Copyright © 2006, Janet M. Taliaferro.

Janet Taliaferro is a graduate of Southern Methodist University and holds a Master’s Degree in Creative Studies from the University of Central Oklahoma, where she received the Geoffrey Bocca Memorial Award for graduate writing. Her novel, A Sky for Arcadia, was a finalist in the 2002 Oklahoma Center for the Book Award. She has published short stories and poems in The Northern Virginia Review, New Plaines Review, Deep Fork Anthology, Dream Quarterly International and Tight. She lives in Virginia but has been a summer resident of Wisconsin since she was eight years old. She is a member of American Independent Writers and Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.

[Poetry Break Editor Note]

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top