The genealogy of tap water
Jamie Wang
Jamie Wang - one.jpg

Fatima Raja

Growing up in a city, drinking water smelling of chlorine

I always wish I had a story to tell that I am a child

of the Yangtze River or the Yellow Sea. Then I remember

how far I have been removed from these waters.

I listened to neighbours speaking

their ancestral rivers, lakes, oceans; some swear their pulses

still beat the rhythm of the sea.

I sigh, go home,

turn on the tap, make tea.

Let its warmth traverse my body

and ask:

 

Quiet, clean, civilised, what path

            have you meandered before arriving

                       to irrigate me, what are your stories before

                                   you travelled through the pipes?

 

The ones of you collected from dammed rivers

or falling from the sky, the ones of

you purified, free of

toxic traces, the ones of

you desalinated, carrying no more

saltiness of home, and the ones of

you measured, priced to

a wet commodity, ubiquitous

and shadowed.

 

But most of all, tell me of

the abundant worlds

you nourish —

 

­the cartography of urban

infrastructures you cradle and

cleanse along the way.

Concrete, asphalt,

cool steel pipes, it is my odd kin I taste

in the tea, brushing my lips

weaving the stories

of cities

into my body.

 

How I have taken you for granted

for so long. Might I call your name, tell

your watery memories, as I tell

the ocean’s?

And proudly claim my fluid lineage:

 

We are children of tap water.

Jamie Wang is an interdisciplinary researcher, writer and poet. She holds a PhD in Environmental Humanities and Cultural Studies from the University of Sydney. Across her research and creative works, she is interested in sustainable story-making towards the opening of other kinds of possible futures. For more information about Jamie’s research, please visit jamiewang.org

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