Water Is Dangerous by Gillian Devereux

Despite its ordinary appearance,
its omnipresence in the world,
water attacks, kills you
in your own bathtub or in a heavy rain
(if you fall face down or lie, unconscious,
with your mouth open). A person cannot breathe
underwater; the human lung is a device

designed to process air. Water can be a device
of torture. Your enemy uses it to increase the pain
of electrocution, to rouse you after a beating, to scald
your body. He shows you a glass of water
but never lets you drink. He forces a hose
down your throat, pumps your belly full. In a toilet,
he submerges your head until you drown

on dry land. It is possible to die
from over-hydration, to poison your body
with pure water. Stagnant water attracts
mosquitoes who carry disease. Salt
water increases thirst, dries out the body, cracks
the lips, blisters the skin. Frozen water presents
other dangers: hypothermia, avalanche, snowdrift,

blizzard, hail, fog. Your entire body encased
in a block of ice, a snowball aimed at a precise spot,
an icicle in the heart, or through the eye into the brain itself.
Water threatens us in all its forms: swimming pool, tidal
wave, waterfall, maelstrom, hot tub, hurricane, flood
and current, whirlpool and water slide. Monsoon,
tsunami, nor’easter, shower, stream. Swollen rivers,

boiling pots, slow leaks, quick creeks. A puddle can kill.
As can a drink, contaminated from the tap, spoiled
at the source. Water breaks dams, washes away
a year’s crop. It turns grassland to swamp,
abandons the soil and leaves behind desert.
The sheer weight of it could end your life,
its pressure crushing you from the inside out.



Gillian Devereux received her MFA in Poetry from Old Dominion University and is currently a PhD candidate in the Media, Art, and Text program at Virginia Commonwealth University. She teaches Media Culture and English at Bay State College. Her poems have appeared in FOURSQUARE, H_NGM_N, Open Letters, Gargoyle, 32 Poems, Wicked Alice, and other journals.