Poetry: Peter Davison, 'Falling Water'

originally published February 1998


Audio: Hear Peter Davison read this poem, recorded in 1998. (1:17)

Also by Peter Davison:
You (2000)
Best Friend (2000)
These Days (2000)
No Escape (1997)
On Mount Timpanagos, 1935 (1997)
Like No Other (1997)
"I Hardly Dream of Anyone Who Is Still Alive" (1995)
The Unfrocked Governess (1994)
The Passing of Thistle (1989)
The Obituary Writer (1974)
Gifts (1965)
The Winner (1958)

From the archives:
A Life's Work
Remembering Peter Davison, by David Barber
Peter Davison in The Atlantic Monthly
A partial collection of Peter Davison's essays, reviews, travelogues, and poems.


Wherever it commences perhaps as random
    raindrop tapping on a leaf and tumbling
        into a tea-stained mosscup

it helplessly inquires after
    lower levels whether seeping
        darkly through silt

and marl to enlarge an imprisoned
    aquifer shortcut or taking its chances to trickle
        out through a slit of clay to join its first

brook and amble off into the yielding
    soft-shouldered marsh past fat roots of
        lilies to linger among the slick fronds

of algae paddled by ducks pierced by
    pickerel to hurry itself and
        whisk into the outlet that will boil it

along a streambed grid of gravel toward another
    stairstep of idleness the lucid
        lake spritzed with sparkling sun

there to seek its breach to tip and hurtle into
    yawning torrent and the great meander
        that will sweep it slow and away out

and empty into the broad salt
    sleep that will cradle it until
        the sun siphons it again
        to knit into more rain.



Peter Davison (1928-2004) was poetry editor of the Atlantic for more than thirty years. Over the course of a distinguished career in book publishing, he was director of the Atlantic Monthly Press and the editor of his own imprint at Houghton Mifflin. His books of poetry and prose include Breathing Room (2000), The Poems of Peter Davison (1995), and the memoir The Fading Smile: Poets in Boston 1955-1960 (1994).

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Peter Davison was The Atlantic's longtime poetry editor.

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