Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Steve Whitaker
Literary Editor
1:03 AM 4th November 2023

Poem Of The Week : Flood By Rachel Bower

Jamalpar District, Bangladesh

A mother stands at the front
of a raft, looking straight

ahead. She bends from the waist,
presses down with a bamboo stick.

The water reflects marigolds
from her green silk sari.

Her feet are bared, tired.
She does not think of grilled corn

or sugar and rice pounded to lai.
Lime trees wait on the horizon

casually kicking brown water.
This is not a lake so there is no shore.

As trees are uprooted in the Channel Islands and the waves careen high over Devonian sea walls, we gawp in wonder at television images that bring the ferocity of storms into our front room. Except they don’t, nor ever can, replicate the ominous and recurringly frequent drama of being exposed, first-hand to the backlash of climate patterns gone seismic.

Rachel Bower’s complaint is eloquent, despite being couched in the simplest of terms: a foil to the languid motion of the ‘manmade’ lake, the reader might be forgiven for thinking that the figure in the raft rowing with a makeshift ‘bamboo stick’ is passing the time of day at indolent leisure.

But the beautiful green of her sari reflecting marigold in the tainted water, and the crops of rice and corn now submerged beneath it, gainsay the colour and abundance that would otherwise thrive. Her thoughts, instead, are inert, as she peers into the murky brown depths that now betoken effluent, toxins and cholera, as the lime trees perform a ministry of hopelessness, seeming to slap the water with their roots, like a child idly kicking a football against a wall.

For the cost of climate change is exacted most heavily on the weakest - a fact of little consequence to the mother stuck in the afternoon, whose motivation is survival, and for protecting the child or children who are conspicuous by suggestion. The narrator’s final line in a poem of waterlogged couplets tells us all we need to know about the shape and form of the new reality.

‘Flood’ is taken from These Mothers of Gods, published by Fly on the Wall Press (2021), and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the publisher.
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