I will slap your face
I said
and the water said
go right ahead.

I’ll beat you with a stick
I said
and the water said
go right ahead.

I will stomp on you
I said
and the water said
go right ahead.

I’ll cut you with my knife
I said
and the water said
go right ahead.

I will nail you in a box
I said
and the water said
go right ahead

as it glittered
in a zillion squints
of dancing glints
along its pebbly bed.

I may be daft
but that was when
I think I heard
the water laugh.

82 responses »

  1. I laft too! What a witty work. It sounds almost like a fable in its simplicity with the stream as a character locked in lesson teaching to the daft person. You make it look so easy! Was this a flow and go poem or did it take you a while to craft?

  2. Until the next-to-last stanza, I thought this was headed to “I’ll flush you down the toilet,” so it turns out that I didn’t have a handle on the end. Too bad, because that way, YOU would’ve had the last laugh. 🙂

    • That’s a whole ‘nother poem, Mister Muse, and a potentially interesting one. Problem is, with modern plumbing, even if you flush water down the toilet, water comes back…. 🙂

    • I hope, Yvonne, that you have better luck than I did. They’ll probably listen patiently and then do as they dang please…. (I hope you aren’ having serious flood in Myrtleford…?)

    • Happy Birthday, Shubha! Several of my favorite people were born under the zodiac sign of Libra.

      I’m glad you recognized this as a zen poem, for that was the attempt.

      Glad to hear you’re home safely. It will take a while, I’m sure, to “process” all the marvels you have experienced. Enjoy!

  3. A riposting rivulet is one thing, but a cachinnating creek is something else. And it’s that sort of smart-alecky attitude nature has that really burns me. A town scrimps and saves for months to put on a lovely parade (the majorettes were absent owing to a developing scandal involving dairy equipment) and Mother nature rains on it.

    • Could you and I but see into the reasons for the perversity of nature, we would rule—rule, I say—the world! Your town should take its cues from Disney (which oversees several worlds, I believe) and simply change the theme of the parade if it rains; keep marching. ( I know of one instance when the “Celebrate a Dream Come True” parade became “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.”) First, it’s all about having a theme, for whatever you do. Second, it’s knowing how to adapt it to a hidden arsenal of other themes when mother nature hits the fan. (This arsenal is usually called imagination.) Then, prancing pulchritude wearing short skirts and high boots and twirling silver sticks can become a whole row of Mary Poppinses with rubber aprons and umbrellas. Adaptability is all… like water.

      • I think we can agree on two things: the perversity of Mother Nature and the multi-national perversity of entertainment conglomerates, whose very diversity facilitates a reach into the nethermost pockets of reason still held dear by a diminishing number of dissidents–and here I include poets, exotic dancers, and airport security personnel–by any and all means.

        This theme is adaptable, and like water, can be frozen to extend shelf life.

        • I think your theme is quite on target. Freezing is, of course, another kettle of fish…and you, as a connoisseur of the macaroni penguins trying to adapt on the island of Lesbos would know a bit of something about that . It remains an unsettling reality that water will not always be bent or pent to our desires…certainly not as liquid or vapor, but not even as ice, either. For instance they say the ice shelf is melting in the arctic, even as it is growing in the antarctic. Now who’s in charge of that one? The water, of course. As a powerful ocean current, it has joined with an icy wind around Antarctica to flummox human prognosticators. (And they call the wind Mariah.)

          • I blame Disney for global warming. I cite Club Penguin, an interactive game for frost-bitten children (I’m sure you are fully conversant in online games) as my evidence. The dastardly plan (second only to Pearl Harbor in dastardliness) is to warm up the planet and thereby heighten children’s desire—a desperate hankering– for ice and silly looking polar cap animals. N.B. Children’s brains are not fully formed yet, which explains their proclivity for playing online games.

            But to compensate for this outrage, I am making myself a cup of curry leaf tea, hoping that my kettle will sufficiently shake up the water molecules within–teaching the ubiquitous liquid a lesson it soon won’t forget.

            • Club Penguin…I generally avoid clubs. I certainly would avoid a penguin one. But then, as you might surmise I am a complete ignoramus about online games. It’s not a generation gap, but simply a mental block about games. I have always found getting through life in society enough of an entertaining game for me.

              Curry leaf tea sounds lovely, as does the shake-up of molecules in your kettle.
              The water says: go right ahead.

              • I am mixing curry leaves (Murraya koenigii) with papaya leaves, which is probably dangerous.

                If you suddenly stop hearing from me, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what happened. At the coroner’s inquest, pretend you know nothing. The legal fraternity is an elite club, and the less they know, the better.

                • Oh, I don’t like the sound of that, Prospero. What will I do without you? Couldn’t you just settle for something bourgeois and sensible like Salada tea bags? Besides, they have not only orange pekoe but tags with Confucian-like sayings to amuse you as you dunk and steep.

                  I had some Salada tea recently at a friend’s house. On that occasion, one of the tags said: “Your thoughts can’t soar if you think like a turkey.” Another said: “Shakespeare ode much to publishers.” Now this has me thinking of another possible writing career: penning pithy mots for tea bag tags. Not much fame or money, but you never know where it might lead. The number of readers would be astronomical.

                • After having hallucinated another novel (about a Chinese food chain serving Moo goo gai pan–with mongoose as the secret ingredient–and forcing chubby American customers to crack open their fortune cookies and having them revel at how prophetically the tiny banners with those pithy sayings mirror their meaningless lives, I awoke from a deep slumber. No Salada tea for me.

                • Of course I was only kidding. I don’t particularly like tea and never have it unless—out of politeness—I am in South Weymouth, doing as the South Weymouthists do. I do like several other things in hot water, though. Lately it’s moosehead chaga.

  4. The gentle rill was laughing at you Cynthia but who knows, ,maybe it was happy you would talk to him ..
    This poem could be a song to the nature like the sailor’s songs are for the sea . The style made me think to those songs with repetitive verses .
    Please, put a joyous music on it
    Love ❤

        • Oh dear….you’ll have to forgive my lack of education and experience in the realms of Marvel Comics…pretty much a territory of youngsters of the male persuasion, I think. And even though I grew up with five brothers, there was not a single comic book aficionado among them. Maybe it was the Maine weather.

          Anyway I consulted Barney for enlightenment and got to see your picture, Namor…..Wow!
          …much sexier than the line drawing of Poseidon in Edith Hamilton’s “The Greek Way.”

          .”I must go back and apologize to Namor for the wrong identification,” I said.
          And the water said, “go right ahead.”

  5. Oh, the cheek of the creek, to defy you like that!

    Actually, your conversation with the creek sounds like the banter of good pals over a jar or two. And to be on good terms with Nature is surely a worthy aim in this modern world.

    An entertaining (and philosophically thought-provoking!) poem, Cynthia. Love it.

    Very best wishes,


    • I do like your coinage of “cheek of the creek,” not only because it rhymes and speaks of audacity, but also suggests yet another dimension—in that misty glen of word association— that of turning the other cheek.

      Personification of things not human is often frowned upon, and justifiably, in our world of today, but it is also one of the oldest and most universally child-like tendencies that I don’t think we can honestly eradicate. When I am tempted to it, I always hope that I allow the thing personified to retain its authentic properties (Pound’s insistence that ” a hawk remain a hawk,”) and not anthropomorphize it to take on views and opinions that accommodate our own boxes of beliefs.

      So glad you liked the poem. Such a good comment. Thank you very much, Paul.

    • Yes. I guess some would think it daft to be speaking to water in the first place. But to listen carefully, then hear and ponder (or should that be creeker) the water’s timeless response….now that is truly “way out there” to the minds of some…..though not to me, or thee.

  6. I agree. as I’ve always been convinced that water has a perverse personality. My proof – it is equally hard to unclog a drain which won’t flow as to fix a persistent leak. The gurgling happy creek, of your poem, knows the answers to these aquatic mysteries; little wonder that it laughs!

    • “The perversity of nature” was a frequently used phrase by a good friend of mine, and I really like your proof of the” perversity” of water. Having battled many a leak, as well as a clog, in my day, I think yours is a brilliant way to summarize it! The wisdom of most spiritual traditions tells us we are better off going with the flow, and yet we seem hard-wired to mess with it. Who is more perverse, after all? Thanks so much for another great comment, Jane.

  7. Once again I think your voice makes this a superb piece Cynthia, making words that stand alone anyway, and work so well, fly us right to that riverbank to watch the watery exchange.

    – esme enjoying the piece enormously upon the Cloud

  8. Utterly delightful; beautifully absurd. In addition it took me straight on to one of my favourite poets:

    Miroslav Holub: Man Cursing the Sea

    just climbed to the top of the cliff
    and started cursing the sea:

    Stupid water, stupid pregnant water,
    slimy copy of the sky,
    hesitant hoverer between the sun and the moon,
    pettifogging reckoner of shells,
    fluid, loud-mouthed bull,
    fertilising the rocks with his blood,
    suicidal sword
    splintering itself on any promontory,
    hydra, fragmenting the night,
    breathing salty clouds of silence,
    spreading jelly-like wings
    in vain, in vain,
    gorgon, devouring its own body,

    water, you absurd flat skull of water—

    Thus for a while he cursed the sea,
    which licked his footprints in the sand
    like a wounded dog.

    And then he came down
    and stroked
    the small immense stormy mirror of the sea.

    There you are, water, he said,
    and went his way.

    • Oh Hilary…thank you so much for bringing this to the comments! I can understand why Holub is a favorite poet of yours….I love him too. It is a shame that he is not better known and appreciated here in the States…perhaps because he did not write for academics. I think he was promoted more appreciatively in the UK, even, than in his own Czech homeland.

      Holub is that strange and wonderful combination—a medical scientist and a poet. His poems seem to translate well– probably because they are random rather than formally fixed in sound and meter. (I say this, only because they read well in simple English…I don’t know Czech! 🙂 )
      Anyway I like the way he uses metaphor in sync with ordinary, physical life, and how open he seems to all phenomena of life, including the irrational. He is a treasure.

      • It is a big thrill to find that you love him too! When I went on the internet to find a copiable copy of this, I rejected the first three as they were different translations from the version I know. Line 4 had ‘Dumb water, stupid pregnant water…’ I prefer the weighted repetition of ‘stupid’. I see I have two copies of his Penguin Modern European Poets volume (I’d better return one to my brother!), one lists prices for the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada (i.e the Commonwealth)… but not the US.

        • Just this year a volume of his poetry–“Before and After”—has come out here. It includes poems from the time he lived under the Czech communist regime and also his more recent ones well into the 1990″s. I think Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney promoted his work extensively, and since Heaney spent so much time here, at Harvard, my guess is that is what may have led to a greater appreciation of Holub. I agree with you: “stupid…stupid..” seems to intensify the ire of that speech much better than “dumb…stupid.” Thanks again, Hilary.

              • It really is for infants… the family even got some royalties for it last year.

                A Spike of Green by Barbara Baker

                When I went out
                The sun was hot
                It shone upon
                My flower pot.

                And there I saw
                A spike of green
                That no one else
                Had ever seen!

                On other days
                The things I see
                Are mostly old
                Except for me.

                But this green spike
                So new and small
                Had never yet
                Been seen at all!

                • How very precious, and perfect!….I love it. It is, as you say, a testament to “the survival skills of good poetry.”… and, I would add, of any really good writing…..something to keep in mind as we work away, so often thanklessly, in our own time.

  9. At first I did not get it. Then I stressed on the use of the word water, water, water, and lo! I laughed.

    Talking about water, I also remember Bruce Lee’s advice: “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

    • What Bruce Lee said is exactly what I was getting at, Ramu Das. Water is at once the most powerful and yet the most gentle of elements, and so able to adapt or take advantage of the situation….so ordinary, and yet so magical. It’s so nice to find your comment here today. Thank you very much!

  10. What a fun conversation with the water Cynthia – you both had quite a following of laughter, as the leaves were shaking on the trees and nuts falling off the oak trees from laughing too hard!!

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