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    sand and small wave

    There Was Always Water

    By Ian Barth

    April 23, 2014
    • Elizabeth

      I'm overcome. Chill after chill: truth chill, thrill of recognition, awe chill. What a gifted poet! I'm so grateful.

    • Charlene

      Oh. My goodness, what a melody of thoughts and words to tell of the transformation of those Fishermen

    From our earliest memories there was always water.
    As small boys, playing at the water’s edge,
    Around the boats, with the rank smell of the slime,
    Among the coils of rope and fish heads;
    Day by day, whether out in the boats or
    On the lake edge, mending tackle
    There was a consciousness of water:
    The slap of the waves, the boat on the swell.

    Later though, as we ourselves became
    Dependent on the water for survival,
    Our knowledge of it deepened, we could name
    Each mood of the lake, and knew as well
    The arc of each expression,
    How we could turn the thing to our advantage
    What days to go out and which to stay at home,
    The location and likelihood of a decent catch.

    There was a thirst that grew among the salt
    In the sweat-stained comradeship among us,
    The sense that the way things were was not
    The way they should be. It was perhaps
    No more than a feeling, that fluttered
    Just beyond the edge of perception
    That something more was expected
    A change in the cycle, a new thing under the sun.

    It was at once a shock and the realization
    Of premonitions held almost eternally
    When he appeared and called us one by one
    We felt the shadow of the Almighty
    There was something in his presence, a new power
    He was both in the shrieking terror of the storm
    Where we all expected to founder
    And later in the depth of that fathomless calm.

    You hear the sound of the wind
    But our ambitions made us stupid beyond belief,
    Each one cold and deaf and blind
    And missed, and missed again the moments of his grief
    On those last days in the early spring
    We walked in growing things, between the rains
    The parched land drinking greedily and blossoming
    And us imagining, all sweet delusion.

    Then in the horror of that morning
    We crouched, unmanned, each alone and trembling
    In that awful stillness
    In the methodical inevitability of watching
    That thing which could never happen, happening
    Thirst beyond thirst.

    A day or two later there was a dawn of exceptional brilliance
    And a sudden surge of irrational hope,
    Whispered disbelief, and secret meetings
    Feet running on the road

    And suddenly he stood there with us
    Solid, real, from one moment to the next.

    He was the same, and he was not the same,
    Or maybe the difference lay with us.
    The veil was lifted and we saw him
    Perhaps as he always had been, always was
    Here was glory of earth and heaven, yet
    Events did not progress the way we thought they would.
    The time would come, but first we had to wait
    To grasp something we had not understood.

    It was then we returned to the water
    To the cry of the birds on the lake
    Stripping off our dusty garments and feeling
    The evening breeze on our backs
    The tear of the coarse ropes on our palms
    The beauty in regular motion
    Heaving up, setting straight, casting out, towing round
    Again and again as the night wore on.

    The wind rose, spray in our faces
    The early light found us near to the shore
    And cursing freely in those turns of phrase
    Not used in a year and more.
    There was in fact nothing to show
    For a nights work; the feel of the lake air
    The beginnings of dawn did nothing to change
    Our frustration at the empty water.

    He stood there in the blowing grass, we heard
    Him shout, hands cupped against the wind.
    Obeying his instructions, we were staggered
    By the sudden weight of the task at hand.
    Back on shore we sat round the embers
    Hungry, eating fish off the hot stones
    And starting to comprehend there.
    What it was he had meant all along

    And it was morning fresh on the edge of the wind
    And high above the shred of a cloud burning orange
    The smell of smoke and water and spring
    Sheep on the hillside
    And fountains in our hearts, fountains
    Soaring upwards and falling like rain.

    JTissot_fishers2 The Miraculous Draught of Fishes by James Tissot – View larger image