Guest Poet C.E. Chaffin

At the Inverted Fountain (UCLA)

I sat here as an undergraduate for hours,
the water tinkling like a muted xylophone 
above the background hiss and glug, 
a voice for every stone.  

This artificial stump of stream 
sounded as real as any other, 
though flowing not to sea 
but to a central well, through pumps, 
and back again to overflow 
the concrete lip from the encircling trench. 
It even smelled like a river, 
mineral-sweet with a tang of leaf, 
but now it's dry, its deep periphery
a reservoir of stagnant water 
where strands of algae flutter 
above the bottlecaps and newspapers 
stuck to the bottom, with a few coins.
Its dark, wet stones have turned 
dull mustard from dried scum.


I think of running water as 
the world's white noise meant 
to cleanse the way between us, 
the Tao of the inevitable running down,
the ultimately indiscriminate lover 
who flatters every shape by imitation. 
Nothing is humbler.  
I flip a coin and make a wish-- 
it bounces off the rocks.   


My right thumb turns to glass,  
pools in my palm, my crystal hand 
drops with a splash on paving bricks, 
my head bursts into droplets 
darkening my shirt.  Only a pile 
of soggy clothes remains.

I fill the fountain like a symphony,
each resisting edge like a reed 
for my continuous song, 
my liquid euphony.

May, 1999

C.E. Chaffin's Questions:

1) Does it need sections?

2) Are there too many commas?

3) Can you picture the fountain?

The Albany Poetry Workshop