Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Vigilance

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." ~Ida B. Wells

Today is World Water Monitoring Day!

 Wednesday, September 18

❝. . . . we challenge you to test the quality of your
waterways, share your findings, and protect our most precious resource. ❞
 –Philippe Cousteau, Jr.

Allegory of Vigilance, Domenico Tintoretto
File:Vigilance (United States Navy poster).jpg
United States Navy

Midweek Motif ~ Vigilance

I started building this prompt around World Water Monitoring Day ~ which is today ~ then widened it to vigilance.  We might agree that youth and community involvement could prevent poisons in our water, but is vigilance always a useful community action?  Would it be useful in keeping guns out of the hands of would-be killers?  In stopping hate crimes?  In keeping treaties?  In guiding media and the internet?  Who should be vigilant?

And when is vigilance simply too exhausting? How much more creative might people be if their attention wasn't divided by constant vigilance?   I remember wondering this during feminist "Take Back the Night" marches in the 1970s.  Now I wonder around issues of immigration and racial profiling. 

Your Challenge:  Create a new poem that addresses the monitoring and vigilance you see as necessary or obtrusive. 

Volunteers from the United States Environmental Protection Agency geared up in their official water sampling gear to show students how they do their jobs. To find out more about water sampling and monitoring visit:


In Which She Considers the Water

 by Rebecca Dunham

Flint, Michigan, 2016

The river rushes and beats her
             home. Through phosphate-scaled
plumbing, it veins the walls' plaster
            and water bleeds
orange chloride from the tap. The pipes
            leach. The lead—no
imminent threat to public health—seeps
            and floats like a ghost, silent,
straight from the Flint to her child's
plastic cup. Lead levels peak
            at 13,200 ppb and the pipes moan:
what was done cannot be
            undone. Fill a glass. Hold it
to the light. No one here to see.

(I used this poem without permission, and will remove it if you wish.)


By Natasha Trethewey

— After Katrina, 2005

At first, there was nothing to do but watch.
For days, before the trucks arrived, before the work
of cleanup, my brother sat on the stoop and watched.

He watched the ambulances speed by, the police cars;
watched for the looters who’d come each day
to siphon gas from the car, take away the generator,

the air conditioner, whatever there was to be had.
He watched his phone for a signal, watched the sky
for signs of a storm, for rain so he could wash.

At the church, handing out diapers and water,
he watched the people line up, watched their faces
as they watched his. And when at last there was work,

he got a job, on the beach, as a watcher.
Behind safety goggles, he watched the sand for bones,
searched for debris that clogged the great machines.

Riding the prow of the cleaners, or walking ahead,
he watched for carcasses – chickens mostly, maybe
some cats or dogs. No one said remains. No one

had to. It was a kind of faith, that watching:
my brother trained his eyes to bear
the sharp erasure of sand and glass, prayed

there’d be nothing more to see.
(I used this poem without permission, and will remove it if you wish.)

All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace

By  Richard Brautigan

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

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 ~ Honey / Bee )


  1. A lovely prompt Susan. Specially love Richard Brautigan's poem. A very happy Wednesday to you all :)

  2. Good morning, Poets United! Enjoy the day and the week as we head toward my favorite time of year and Equinox.

  3. What a thought-provoking prompt, Susan. I especially like the poems about Flint and Katrina. So relevant.

  4. Susan,
    A most interesting prompt today, with Vigilance.
    I looked at it from several aspects and have tried to bring it together with my poetry post for this prompt.

  5. Great prompt Susan. Be back later tonight to read all the entries.
    Hope everyone has a wonderful day.

  6. An interesting prompt and some great poems have been created.

  7. "Watcher" was sad to read, there must have been sooo many bones to find. Our part of town (Houston suburb, Katy) has been on the dry side of Tropical Storm Imelda today. We've had showers off and on but there has been flooding on the east side and South towards Galveston. Still not like Katrins in New Orleans. Waiting and watching for rebuilding leaves a dry empty feel. Our house had 33 inches of water from Tropical Storm Claudia in 1979.
    The poem conveys the aspects well. Good choice, Susan.

    1. Thank you, Jim. The memory of Claudia certainly helps us understand Katrina. And now, the Bahamas . . . All worsens as time moves on. There will be more horror poems and stories.

  8. I'm sorry I'm late again - still catching up! Thank you for an interesting prompt and excellent poems, Susan. Mine is a very quick draft which started as a memory from childhood and then turned into something else based on a picture I once saw but couldn't find on the Internet; luckily I found a suitable image on Wikimedia.

  9. Hello All- Joining in today. Thanks for the great prompt Susan. I hope you all are having a fantastic week!


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