Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Midweek Motif ~ Watershed Moments

The Somass Estuary, Port Alberni, BC
photo by Dennis See

"Every life has a watershed moment,
an instant when you recognize you are about to  make a choice
that will define everything else you will ever do.
I'm not sure we can recognize those moments
until they've passed us."

― Mira GrantFeed

"As costly as it was in the lives of our men and women in uniform, 
in military assets, and in esteem and pride, 
Pearl Harbor was a watershed moment for America.
(Joe Baca)

Watershed moments are commonly understood as a moment in time, after which nothing is ever the same. The dictionary definition is, literally, the place in a river, where the water is split into two distinct paths that will not intersect again. This gives us two options.

Your challenge: 

Describe a watershed moment in your life, 
describe a watershed in an actual river.

From this high place all things flow,
Land of divided streams, of water spilled
Eastward, westward, without memento...
Land where the morning mist is furled
Like smoke above the ridgepole of the world.

The sunset hawk now rides
The tall might up the climbing deep of air.
Beneath him swings the rooftree that divides
The east and west. His gold eyes scan
The crumpled shade on gorge and crest
And streams that creep and disappear, appear,
Past fingered ridges and their shrivelling span
Under the broken eaves men take their rest.

from the Collected Works of Robert Penn Warren,
an excerpt from his long poem Audubon: A Vision.
You can read the entirety of this poem here.

***     ***      ***       ***
Language Of Water
Water calls out the names of the dead and the living
Tells stories about our past
Moves through our dreams in great currents of desire
Pulls the dialect of our days strung together in steady vowels
Water is the gathering place and the scattering
The vessel and the drink
It wraps the planet in a mantle of blue
And spins her out into the universe longing
For connection with each stone she passes
She empties words of mourning and words of bliss
Carries undone houses in floods, so spirits live on through generations
Swimming in her body
Every flood plain is marked by the shape of her face
Every suicide that is called home through her portal
Dreams of light and movement and wanders
Vast plains of blue speaking in tongues of ocean, or river, lake or pond
To understand her speech you listen to fish, heron, or eel
You watch bird, turtle, fox, or bear bend down to drink from her mouth
You swim the long channels of her mind
And rise back up dripping with news from her underworld
Water calls out all our names, offers us second chances to heal
Reminds us to look at what we cannot now see,
And to listen for what we cannot now hear.
Devreaux Baker, 2009
Poem inspired by the vision of  Watershed Poetry Mendocino

   ***     ***     ***     ***     ***

Or, a watershed moment in one's life: in this case the moment when a doctor wrote a four-letter diagnosis on a piece of paper, that spelled the fate of Mark Doty's lover, Wally.


“I’ve been having these
awful dreams, each a little different,
though the core’s the same—

we’re walking in a field,
Wally and Arden and I, a stretch of grass
with a highway running beside it,

or a path in the woods that opens
onto a road. Everything’s fine,
then the dog sprints ahead of us,

excited; we’re calling but
he’s racing down a scent and doesn’t hear us,
and that’s when he goes

onto the highway. I don’t want to describe it.
Sometimes it’s brutal and over,
and others he’s struck and takes off

so we don’t know where he is
or how bad. This wakes me
every night now, and I stay awake;

I’m afraid if I sleep I’ll go back
into the dream. It’s been six months,
almost exactly, since the doctor wrote

not even a real word
but an acronym, a vacant
four-letter cipher

that draws meanings into itself,
reconstitutes the world.
We tried to say it was just

a word; we tried to admit
it had power and thus to nullify it
by means of our acknowledgement.

I know the current wisdom:
bright hope, the power of wishing you’re well.
He’s just so tired, though nothing

shows in any tests, Nothing,
the doctor says, detectable;
the doctor doesn’t hear what I do,

that trickling, steadily rising nothing
that makes him sleep all day,
vanish into fever’s tranced afternoons,

and I swear sometimes
when I put my head to his chest
I can hear the virus humming

like a refrigerator.
Which is what makes me think
you can take your positive attitude

and go straight to hell.


You can read the entirety of the poem here, if you wish.

                *** *** *** *** ***

Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community.

       (Next week Sumana's Midweek Motif will be ~ Boredom   )


  1. Hey everyone,

    Woooo hooooo its time for Midweek Motif :D and I m so glad to grab this opportunity and share this poem with you all. Its a tribute to none other than Poets United for changing my life and making me the person I m today. Cheers :D

    Lots of love,

    1. Thanks, Sanaa, what a very nice thing to say! I love your enthusiasm.

  2. Good morning, Poets! Looking forward to what you share with us week! Hope you all have a good one.

  3. I'm in. I miss everyone. I'm in Week 7 of healing and everything is going great! I'm getting stronger and gaining stamina daily. Yay! And I love the prompts written by the Poets United Team.

    This is a new poem, but it chronicles a very old watershed in my life and in the lives of some friends. It shaped up in a way that surprised me, and then I let it be.

    1. Good seeing you this morning, Susan! Glad your healing is progressing well.

  4. Eh, not my best. I tried to revisit a rather dark time of life that was a major turning point for me. I will keep tinkering with it.

    1. Always good to get the words down one way or another & then revise as time goes on. I do this too. Smiles.

    2. Yep, I think the beginning is ok, but my closure on this one is really weak. I have told the story several different ways over the years. I will get there.

  5. I write about Three Rivers in my poem. they are probably mud puddles because of a drought and mismanagement.
    Happy Wednesday everyone. Susan it is great to hear that you are gaining some energy - so happy for you!

  6. Wow, even when I get up at six a.m., you're ahead of me! LOL. Sanaa, that is a really sweet thing to do, to write a poem about Poets United. I know exactly how you feel, as it changed my life, too.

    Susan, I am so glad to know you are mending well - and I also cant believe how fast (for me) seven weeks has gone by. I imagine they feel longer to you.

    Kids, I will be away babysitting today so I will get around to anyone I miss this morning when I get home at five. I am so looking forward to reading about all your watersheds, whether actual or personal. Yippee!

    1. Have a good day babysitting, Sherry! All is well here. Smiles.

    2. Thank you Sherry, have a wonderful day ahead :D

  7. Hi everyone ~ here in the UK watershed means both a pivotal moment and the change in tv scheduling from family to adult entertainment, so I've played around with that...and I've added in a virtual poetry reading to just to give the start of September some added momentum!

  8. I hope I'll be able to visit everyone today...I'm having so much trouble with my 'net'...ugh...
    What a wonderful prompt Sherry!...

  9. Perfect topic to focus my thoughts today. Thanks.

  10. Thanks for the prompt, Sherry. Look forward to reading everyone's poems.

    1. Thanks for reading nic. I can usually count on you the day before the next prompt to remind of the poem from the week before .

  11. Ha, I got the chance to sneak home for an hour to catch up...yippee. I LOVE all of your responses to the prompt, some really deep and heartfelt writing this week, kids. Thank you all so much for making this week extra special with your wonderful poems. And thanks, Mary, for keeping an eye on the kids for me, LOL.

  12. Sherry, I'm not happy with my entry today but didn't want to miss out on such a thought provoking prompt. Still, my muse is simply not cooperating lately.
    Hope you don't work too hard today.

    1. It is a very touching story so I am glad you shared it

    2. Myrna, your poem is perfect and went straight to my heart. Never apologize for the simplicity and beauty of your words, which come from such a beautiful heart!

  13. Its the wee hours and already Thursday. So I just posted a few minutes ago. Still feeling like yesterday to me. Wishing all a good week. Really happy to be among poet friends in the pantry

    Much love...

  14. Late to the party. Happy to be here. ;)

  15. What a lot of wonderful inspiration here. Thank you!

  16. Spinning back through to grab those that are reading.
    Happy Thursday.

  17. I didn't expect to end up where this prompt took me---

    1. Audrey, that is one powerhouse of a poem. Thank you so much for it. It should be on posters at transition houses around the country.

    2. Thank you Sherry! It was a difficult time and maybe the first time I have written about it

  18. I am surviving my week better than expected - five kids, total, the baby is non-stop, as is the FAS ten year old. But I seem to be holding my own, LOL. One more day to go!

  19. Once again, Mr. Linky is not showing up on my computer.
    Mine is up at:

  20. I am a bit late , but I will get to all of your poems by has been a long day..thanks for understanding..


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