THE RIVER, ONCE by Marc Vincenz

The River, Once

once she went to quench
then she went to scrub

now she collects dead toads
grinds them with cornmeal to feed her sows

once she ploughed the land
toiled with her face deep in dark soil

her back burning in hot sun
now she works in the paper mill

making laminated labels for the city
sundays she takes a out boat

not to take in the view or dream
but to gather plastic bags

now she drinks from water bottles
carted here all the way from the city

label reads: pure filtered glacier water
and says it’s drawn from a mountain

it reminds her of a spring
at the foot of a sleeping dragon

(previously published in Ducts Journal)


There was a time when we were unknowing. What excuse do we have today?

It is hard to comprehend—even in this so-called era of technology—that smokestacks still belch on the horizon, that sewage, chemicals and oil spills contaminate our water. Through no fault of its own, every fish in the world has mercury pumping through its bloodstream.

We know that the technology to supplant fossil fuels already exists, and yet plans sit tight in corporate drawers. We humans consume 30 billion barrels of oil every year.  Imagine how many tons of waste are being spilled into the world’s life-giving resource?

One fifth of the world’s population have no access to safe drinking water.  Yet, for those who have the, water is always available; even if it is imported from halfway across the world and labeled and bottled down the road.

Control of the earth’s resources equates to control over the earth’s people.

Oil and water have no conscience.  Neither, it seems, do we.


Marc Vincenz is of Swiss-British descent, was born in Hong Kong, and worked in China for many years. More recently based out of Iceland, he writes a featured column for The Reykjavik Grapevine, Iceland’s  English language newspaper. His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming in various journals, including: Poetry Salzburg Review, MiPoesias, the nervous breakdown and Right Hand Pointing.  He is currently putting the finishing touches on two collections of poetry, and a spoken-word CD.

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