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by Laura Parker Roerden

As a child, we had a hand pump
over an artesian well
by a white, double-decker chicken barn.

It was the only water
for hundreds of birds
growing on that land.

The pump required
several hard thrusts
of the handle to raise the water

like spirit, to the surface.

Then each long,
resistance laden
pull of its arm brought up

a triumph of water;
a river

spilling
into a galvanized bucket

spraying
foam and mist
in confusing and thrilling planes

that felt like rafting on whitewater.

Everything in the dim eastern
light would turn
silver and metallic,
reflective and animated

like balls of mercury
jumped around the bathroom floor
when you drop
a thermometer.

The pump had long ago
been painted dark green,
but it had weathered

with flecks of peeling paint
gathered on the creaky boards capping
the well below;

the patterns held my imagination
while I pumped
the water,

drawing in the cold
air, with each long pull.

“Learn the ways of water,”
I was told

one morning

and I listened,

plunging my hand into the icy
bucket, as if the winter air was finally
ready to explain itself to me,

as if the every day
need of water

carried a promise
I had not yet

understood.

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Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women.

 

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