Thursday, May 3, 2012
The Memory of Water
Writing a poem about drought, about the scrawl of long-dried oxbow rivers on the land I fly over between here and New Mexico, about the memory of water that is in us like some tribal lore, I've remembered the vast Byzantine cisterns that lie under what was at the time of their building Constantinople and is now Istanbul. The unimaginable store of water brought by aqueducts and underground channels from Thrace, from the far ends of the Roman empire, to quench the city's great thirst—for baths and fountains, for the opulence that only water gives.
Richness indeed, but also greed, sorrow. One of the Corinthian columns in the vast forest of stone that held up the largest cistern, the Basilica Cistern, is said to be engraved with tears, for the hundreds of slaves who died in the construction of the artificial cavern.
Tears as well for the lost water that haunts me, child of the desert.
image: Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, agiasofia.com