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Grant Clauser

How to Tell if the Water is Safe

Don’t ask the leopard frog about

the osprey in the sky. Don’t ask

the stickleback about the pickerel

stalking in the weeds. Cryptosporidium

is tasteless. Hope isn’t. It swells

the tongue, shrinks the stomach

into a surgeon’s knot with both

loose ends dragging in your throat.

If you can count the number of dead

fish along the bank. If you can hear

the buzzing of larva stagnating

in a green pool. If you can stand it

enough, like waiting in line in the wind

to vote for another dream killer,

like paying toward a debt

so large your children will inherit

its weight, paying for so long

no one remembers where it began

or if it ever gave anyone any pleasure.

Only then should you cup your hands

and drink.

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Grant Clauser's sixth book, Temporary Shelters, is forthcoming from Cornerstone Press. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Greensboro Review, Kenyon Review, and other journals. He lives in Pennsylvania where he works as an editor and teaches poetry at Rosemont College.

Bear Review


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