"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 Canada, The Puritan’s Town Crier, and elsewhere.

“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.