Poem for Display at a City Reservoir

This entry is part 3 of 14 in the series Public Poems


Attention suicides: please have the consideration
to drown elsewhere. It is not that your body
would be especially toxic — that’s a myth.
But what we crave in water is an absence of taste,
not the taste of absence.

Also, kindly make sure your water bill is paid up.
It’s the least you can do for your neighbors,
who will soon probably be needing to recharge
their own reservoirs, those brown or blue pools
in which on occasion you may have glimpsed yourself,
smaller than life.

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11 Replies to “Poem for Display at a City Reservoir”

  1. love the poem but question the science. Why wouldn’t a body in a reservoir be toxic? Always thought those ‘boil water’ alerts were to avoid typhoid, cholera, dysentery, etc etc.

  2. Joan: Those diseases would only come from already-infected bodies, basically via fecal contamination, which also causes lesser illnesses. The thing is though, any reservoir — indeed, practically any freshwater body in the world — always has at least some fecal contamination, which is why we need water plants, and can’t drink from open water anymore. (This is one of humanity’s more dubious accomplishments.)

    Dave is referring particularly to recent studies making it clear that unburied bodies in themselves aren’t particularly a disease menace. This becomes an issue in the wake of disaster or war, when burying or burning lots of bodies might use lots of resources better spent on the survivors.

  3. I am not a scientist and I am vastly not qualified, but I am from Missouri..the show me state, and so far I am not all that convinced, even after reading all the latest arguments /comments below this article. Dead bodies emit gases, which emit fecal material whether in water or not. Dead bodies attract flies which don’t know which bodies are diseased or not when they go to the next live body. At any rate, I doubt many people who were not dying of thirst or in the throes of dimentia willing would drink from a body of water with a rotting corpse in residence. That puerperal fever saga doesn’t make me any more comforatable either.

  4. I like the reservoir’s attitude. Did the poem grow out of the taste of absence / absence of taste dichotomy?

    I hope enough of these appear to festoon an entire town with. Dave for city manager!

  5. On the other hand..I love the poem so who cares. Hey, Dave you already have a photo or two photosfor an upcoming poem You could expand on the “Don’t touch the Rocks” theme. (grin)


  6. Hmm: I wonder if somewhere on a bridge high over a body of water or a canyon, there is a sign, “Stop! Have you remembered to prepay your funeral?”

  7. Well I love the dark wit of this……especially:

    But what we crave in water is an absence of taste,
    not the taste of absence

    (but you’re getting the absence of taste when someone drowns themselves in there *grin*)

  8. Thanks for the comments, and sorry it’s taken me a while to get to them.

    Joan – David is right about the studies I had in mind (and thanks for that link, David.)

    Congratulations for being from one of the few states with a nickname as arrogant and annoying as “the Keystone State.” :)

    Peter – Nope, I thought of that oh-so-clever phrase as I was writing it. I don’t know how many more of these I’ll write.

    Joan #2 – Hmm. Good idea.

  9. Hi, this poem is really great! But a question: Do you need the second section at all? In my opinion you have said it all in the first paragraph… Just a suggestion.

  10. Hi Morten – Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to critique. Personally, I don’t think I’d be much interested in this poem if it didn’t explore that metaphor of eyes/reservoir at least a little, and talk about what a suicide means to those who are left behind. And the last lines of the first stanza are a bit too clever for the sort of ending I prefer.

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