By David Holper


Imagine, like so many who live
invisible lives, you had to carry your water

each day.  Five gallons in a jerry can for five miles.
It’s a simple formula: shoulder the burden

or die of thirst.  In this way, you might
learn the meaning of what bearing
a handful of water
truly means.


 Gurfa (Arabic, noun): the amount of water than can be held in one hand.

David Holper is a Professor of English at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California. He has an MFA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His first book, 64 Questions, was published by March Street Press, and he is self-publishing his second book The Bridge. The above poem is from his recently completed book of poemsLanguage Lessons: A Linguistic Hegira. The collection consists of 109 poems, each poem with an untranslateable word from a foreign language (or in a few cases, rare words in English), its definition, and an interpretation on that word in a poem.  In addition, the 109 poems represent the beads on the japa mala, the prayer beads that Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs use in their spiritual walk, and in this same sense, the book is a spiritual exploration of language through the poems. He has about 80 poems in various journals, including publications in Pilgrimage, First Things, Poetry in the Cathedral, Ruminate, Rock and Sling, Conversations Across Borders, Toyon, The Kerf, and  I have also published about a dozen pieces of fiction in various quarterlies, including Grand Street, the New Virginia Review, and Callaloo.