My wife and I hiss and row about water

A glacier U’d out this green valley
now the water pours liquid down its walls,
rain falls onto wheat and grazing grass,
into the river turning on its chalk seam,
rain feeding acres of sweet table water
sponged underground in sand and rock
as overhead the cows chew and the wheat pales,
and in our nursery garden, behind our hedges,
my wife and I hiss and row about water.

I’d like to dig a pond into our apple grid
its dark centre cool for plunging,
its camouflaged surface a bird sip
and generator of light play, where
dragon flies woo lillies in the summer,
and frogs spawn monsterous jelly,
and a winter rink cracks at the edges
where the boys tread, causing
fish to rise and bump their horns
against the roof
and defeated,
sink away.

A pond introduces these dramas to a garden.
life and death at the point of a heron,
spent woodpecker feathers, egg shell,
leaf litter, water boatmen,
flotsam adrift on our interior ocean.
And the rain will top it up,
and the weather will treat it
and I will use it like a superior barometer:
It is rainingIt has been dry.
Frost is upon us and the poor fish are under plate.
Oh to have this water dimension in our lives!

But my wife likes the lawn.
Leave it alone, she says,
a pond really means a plastic mould sunk in.
In drought you’ll see the pond for what it is.
Narcissism. Fragile dreaming.

Then a reflecting pool? I ask,
its dark angles stoic
monument to my wife’s heroism
her life long sacrifice captured in architecture,
black sentences of slate.
Not organic slop, lazily bogging and
waiting to evaporate or freeze to death,
let’s make water work for us!
Run it in canals,
riffle it, popple it, drive it with a motor,
its restlessness advertising our high standards,
after-dinner conversation wrought from rain:
“Pray, admire this – just one of our many achievements.”

But my darling does not want water so close to the house.
What about the foundations, and other people’s children
who might fall in?
We have greater concerns than waterfalls.

Ah, I shout, a fountain!
Plumes of summer fizz,
the plash of mountainsides sounding
alpine notes onto our valley floor
its jet our familial line of beauty
fraying when autumn blows,
its loose water clattering
in winter’s empty rooms
Green light when it suns!
Create a fountain and never again be in thrall to wind.
Be unsure of what happens next.
Water makes these things happen!

But my plashing does not smooth my wife.
One more year passes and our garden
receives this valley’s gift of rain
but is mute in water language,
has no where to put its consignment.
So water mosses our lawn,
fattens our vegetables
limbers our trees
but it has no true holding, no articulation.
And I have no mirage, no depths,
the fantasy isn’t there.

Alex Hickman (
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Alex Hickman

5 thoughts on “My wife and I hiss and row about water

  1. timmaltin

    Fantastic poem Al, well done: let’s divert the Avon through our gardens, like the Romans 👍

    Best regards,

    Tim Maltin Chief Executive

    Maltin PR 53a Brewer Street London W1F 9UH

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  2. Tom Hillier

    And that my dear is the lot of the Romantic male married to the Pragmatist wife. Annoyingly they’re usually right of course.

  3. stalagmiteadventures

    Alex – quick note to say that Sophie and I sat down with a cup of tea and read this poem out loud, thoroughly enjoying it while imagining your garden and the designs you have for it. Then, happily used to your poetic voice, we reread the poem you wrote about our wedding, framed and sitting atop a chest of drawers in our living room. You definitely have pride of place as the poet laureate of our household. Lots of love to the Hickman clan. E, S and T

    Sent from my iPhone


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