"Water Witcher"

Jenny Berkel

Jenny Berkel is a singer-songwriter and poet from rural Ontario. In between playing concerts across the globe, she writes and teaches English. She is currently working on a new album. Her writing has been featured in The Literary Review of CanadaThe Puritan’s Town Crier, and elsewhere.

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"As a glosa, 'Water Witching' borrows and reinterprets four lines from 'If each day falls,' a very short but sharp poem by Pablo Neruda."

He was an accidental water witcher.

An unparalleled prophet. In 1967,

a neighbour gave him a forked

willow branch and thrust him

onto the backyard. Spread of darkness

over Lake Erie, pockets of wet within

factory-soaked soil, Nanticoke pushing

power across counties with

the lake tossing its limbs.

We needed to sit on the rim

of Ontario to watch the storm batter

the horizon: earth’s edge sliced out below,

black clouds piling up in the sky,

a murder of crows cawing. All eyes

on the willow as he walked on water,

a Peter full of faith in the upturned mess

of seven children. Baseballs, dolls, tulip

bulbs, his hands locked around

the branch, wavering on the crest

of the well of darkness

 

far below. We watched him

criss-cross and waited

for what?

We didn’t know

that he didn’t know

either. A father brings to flight

all gulls of disbelief,

so when the earth yanked him

in, we watched him dive

and fish for fallen light

with no surprise, satisfied.

A well is a wish, an echo

of desire. A child calls into the dark

and feels confident in a reply,

crouching in the mud and peering

at the ground — the father that bends

towards it, the water that pools below it,

the clamour of crows behind it.

Once, we followed his footprints

with patience.

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