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River Test pool

Recited into water

These poems are from Ben Verinder’s recently completed collection How to save a river/father – a celebration of those who rescue rivers, as well as a meditation on addiction and grief. As background research, Ben interviewed scientists, geographers, educationalists and volunteers who work in riverine protection and ecology in the UK, Ireland and the United States.

Held in your house, a goddess 

Her name is Sabrina, Danu, Brigid,
Tamara, depending where you live.
She whispers, haltered, from your water tank,
gasps through the pipes and, under pressure, slakes
your kids, quenches the housebound plants.
Her sighs steam beans and dumplings. She takes
your stigma in her mouth and freely blasts
the patio; she wants to flow, gives thanks
for showers mistaken as your rite,
but seethes your teas and stews. Despite
such tender washing of your dirty wounds
you soften her with salt, bleed her
from the radiator, offer her your
piss, your shit, your supplicating puke.
Neuse River waterdog

Sensitive. I wish that was a compliment,
as in a salamander tastes the water
and by movement pinpoints planktonic
copepod, crayfish, spider, perch, darter,
but you meant it as in thin-skinned,
vulnerable to phosphorus and nitrogen,
as in the paper heart and absent lungs,
as in range restricted now to north of Mount Olive
and south of Henderson.

'The poem is a breeding ground for the impossible.' Nick Mahoka

The big man
carries a tank
half full of flow

into the classroom
and the pupils
hear him explain

the little words
hiding in gravel
surviving on the yolk

of their small echo.
The kids must convey
each of them home

consider their
pitch, yaw, roll.
Some will be forgotten

over half term
but enough will flourish
to be delivered

to the river,
recited into water.

Ben Verinder: why I write

In his magnificent essay ‘The Government of the Tongue’, Seamus Heaney suggests that there is mystery, spirituality and discipline in observation. I am profoundly interested in observing. At a time when paying attention can feel like a radical act, I want to bear witness to even the tiniest things. This is partly because, for me, the germination of a poem requires attention, and partly because my consideration is one of the few small gifts that I can offer the living world, to which I owe so much, not least my existence.

Poetic metaphor can broaden our vision and help us to grasp the indefinable. We hang a net between words to catch new or challenging concepts.  We like to feel these connections because, as Don Paterson suggests, we are ‘creatures for whom things must connect, must mean’.

Ben Verinder

About Ben

Ben Verinder is a poet and PR professional living in rural Hertfordshire. His poems have been shortlisted or commended in a variety of competitions and he has also written a biography of the adventurer and writer Mary Burkett.


Words copyright © Ben Verinder 2024.

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