Dirty Pipes or The First Plague (revised)

February 11, 2005

I turn the tap on my faucet and the
Water runs russet.
What turns the water red?
What sediment of ages past flows in my pipes and into my body
Turning what was a fountain of life into a repository of death?

Was this what the Egyptians saw with the coming of the first plague
Life-giving water turning to blood
Mother of rivers brought to her knees,
Raw, bitter, bringer of death
To her children?

What did the Egyptians do for water during those terrible days
Did they consume the red liquid
Taking into their own bodies the pestilence and disease
Or did they run parched and dirty
Through the streets of the great city?

Did they marvel at the Awesome Power that brought the first
Menstruation of their Mother
And what of the Jews
Beneficiaries of this first great tragedy,
How did they satisfy their thirst?

But back in my kitchen I look to much more mundane realities
I call the plumber and make an appointment
Ensuring that he Roto-Rooters my drains,
Snaking through my pipes
Removing any doubt about their cleanliness.

And I am free to wash away the blood that runs through my reality
Chalk it up to past experience,
Forget about the lesson I unwittingly learned
That behind every bringer of life
Lies the potential for death.

This is the 2nd try at a poem that I posted in its first form here. Today, I am heading over (at 12:00 noon) for the weekly MIT writers (students, faculty, staff) who offer critique to each other on their writing. Each week a different person brings something to share, and we offer our insights. A great group which meets in the Writing Center in Stata on Fridays during the year.

This version of the poem is slightly changed due to some feedback I have received from last week’s session (during which we began to consider the piece) and some feedback from the Critical Poets online forum (another great resource for poets) where I had the piece reviewed under the category of “Poems for Critique and Revision”.

If you want to add your two cents, please feel free. I will be posting my final(ish) version sometime next week.


  1. This comment moved from the old blog site — original date lost.

    inspired by e.e. cummings

    “Heart & Him”

    take my heart
    i (gladly) ripped it
    out my chest
    (for him)
    look at it;

    it is still beating,
    with blood from its ventricles (for him)
    (he shooked his head & refused)
    though you can’t see
    the chordae tendinae are still pulling (for him),
    o p e n i n g & c.l.o.s.i.n.g the valves
    (he threw it on the ground & stomped)
    the aorta & pulmonary trunks & inferior & superior vena cava
    are glistening in crimson red (for him)
    (he looked in the other direction & walked)
    what more do you want? what more do you need?
    Tell me . . . how am i supposed to know?
    Shall i sacrifice the rest of my body to you?
    Take it, take it, take it before it dies.
    (he said, “It is already dead.”, & left)

  2. This comment moved from the old blog site — original date lost.

    A beautiful peice. One of the most thought provoking I’ve read in a long, long time. It sparks feeling, it’s raw emotion and the ending line was brilliant.

  3. This comment moved from the old blog site — original date lost.

    I do not know poetry,
    Having read a few and never learned,
    Just one thing attaches me to poetry:
    The poignance relieved from penning.

    The rhythmic balance of cadence,
    And other beauty I know the names not,
    Please, bind, and hold me,
    To a poem’s sight and fragrance.

    I know not of form nor style,
    But write from my cage of feelings,
    I know not the how of critique,
    Nor the art of amateur appreciation.

    I’m shy to appraise a poem,
    Afraid that my own will be assessed,
    Help me, writers, penners, and authors,
    Help guide my lost poetic disposition.

  4. This comment moved from the old blog site — original date lost.

    Dan, I posted a poem on my blog. Please do see it and comment. 🙂

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