Water Witching


Lend me your ears; I am telling you stories. My cave is empty. I have nothing else to give. There is a mountain in Norway called the Storebalak, where, in March of ’86, an avalanche ate 16 soldiers. This is known as the Vassdalen Incident. Consider the number 16. Consider the numbered dead. This was of 31 of them. Consider the avalanche merciful. Consider I am telling you facts now. Let it be known this is a history. Who knows what of it is true.

On the radio, Whitney was #1. She wailed HOW WILL I KNOW—; yes, wrenchingly. At the center of each of our stone pits is a question that shrinks us to nothingness. I tried to answer Whitney but I wasn’t born yet. I wasn’t an I at all. Asterism is a phenomenon in some gemstones that causes them to exhibit a star-like concentration of reflected or refracted light. Even when you can only hear Whitney, you know to see her is to see she shines like this, dancing with her six limbs, refracting & reflecting & reflecting & again. She is a miraculous concentration.

On the mountainside the soldiers appeared as stars too. This is what the light will do, angling itself against snow, rendering even a soft body in its crosslines crystalline. How impossible to stare at a person straight on. No matter light’s angle.

As they laced their big soldier boots they anticipated repetition. This was after all a routine mission. They thought not of their wives, who they’d never see again. And what of it? Feet land one in front of the other. It doesn’t matter what boots you wear. Also the sun rises. Also the sun sets. Et cetera. I am telling you a history. Remember?


How a mountain
offers up our smallness
Such sharp relief It astonishes—
this ease by which
we are cowed How
could we know

String hope about your thin neck
darling Pray spring will flay itself
from hardest snow


Do not get me wrong:
I have no love
for the onward tramp
of imperialism. Think
how history whitewashes
its victors. This could have been
a winning film. A hard-hearted unit
singing Whitney as they clawed
themselves from under snow.

Uplift. Perseverance. All was wind
and cold force. Their noses became red
emergency buttons. This is what happens
when you find yourself
in a god-event. And on a Wednesday!

Who can say why the avalanche
needed an army. Who can say
why any of us do. Even disasters
fear terrors of the under-bed.
Shore themselves up with bodies.
Place bodies in line of death instead.


In search of those lost
a rescue team employed
a virgula divina divine
rod ; or wudnschelrute
fortune        rod

What fortune was there to be had

This is a history Believe
what I say is true

The crew searched for millennia
until night fell             Of course the underneath
wasn’t seeable in any physical sense

thus the rod

How simple to fill the crevasses
of uncertainty with faith
Snow will fall where it can fit
By which I mean any material
in great quantity can kill

Even love
Even the need of it

how will I know

What suspensions
facilitated in loss

Imagine a heart’s width contracting to the smallest point of light
Think this a kind of mercy
Scrunch self up against possibility of recovery

How we forget recovery harbors its own undesirable—
clucking fugitive to tell the lie
of the having to begin with

A mile marker! A frost-bit finger rises
from snow-melt Points back only to itself


In 1518 Martin Luther proclaimed water
divination a transgression
of the first               commandment

This is a fact This is a history

Trust me

Then again               Martin
had a damn loud mouth
It was always open          too many words
were like to fall out of it


In 1568 St. Teresa of Spain witnessed
a water witching           she knew its holiness
& sought no explanatory principle
There she established a convent on the dirt
the rod kissed           called it Miracle

Who can know if some god vouched for this

What good such voucher besides
Stews simmer             stirred
by rose-cheeked wives Little figures
in a snow globe before it is shaken by chaos
Toy children float in all this water

An officer at the door       rote        unsmiling
Drape flag over coffin Any flag that’ll fit
What veil       Love       A god bears witness
doesn’t blush a goddamn bit
Of course I am not devout

Still I know some things only a divining rod will out


Much I know I know
not by fact       but by feel
When I let a man cum in me
this is another kind of faith

I’ve a longing for possession This is of no bearing

I am a history

A diviner believes she may find water
at the pointed end of a stick         end of a dead twig
in dead soil        dead dumb crabgrass all over
& small dead hunched things biding time underfoot
yearning for manna to fall             Or else to rise

Mistake               trusting
that what some call radical vulnerability stokes fecundity
Prise the stone love of a man
What rock garden this
Know                my hearth is full
only of the stickiness of his need

The fact of a need is it is possible for it to be met

If I’d had a grandmother perhaps she’d warn
against a sated man They’re liable to go
off to war other women Vistas of desire

I was possible
once I am a drought
now             No use
in slaking

The fact of a possibility is it begins by living in hope

And what do I live in
A shoe A cupboard A dresser drawer swaddled
in a towel my mother warmed I keep
outgrowing my homes I keep outgrowing my hopes

A water witch traces the motions of ghosts
Her hands are not her own
In her mind’s eye’s map metalloids pulse
beneath land’s exposed flesh

She opens herself to the rod like a saint

Of course I know this taint of strangeness
I was a history I know too the grief of the lie
A man cums and by noon evaporates
dew on web in hard sun such temporary jewels

I feel him dry
in me On me
his need dries
too forms another
skin I peel it
as a child peels
Elmer’s glue from their palm
Deadness still new
in concept if not in fact

We are dealing in facts

& so such things go
Men leave &
no crops No child

Even a scarecrow keeps the company of birds
sad sack I don brimmed hats to black the light
Wear an oversize flannel to resemble a loved thing
Douse it in cologne and roll in my bed Watch crows
circle and caw beyond my bland window
They do not land

In dark I seek the hand of a man
creeping            through the dry dirt
I sprinkled the last of my water on
Night of the living dead in the rust belt
Dust Bowl woman body & all that

In controlled studies dowsing rods have not been proven
to find water soldiers or anything else
The rods scientists agree do move
pulled by muscular habit               buried sorrows perhaps
by the promise              of heavenly bodies as I
myself am pulled



image1Jamie Hood is an ex-academic and current poet. Presently, she’s completing a manuscript of poems and personal history concerning sexual assault and rape culture called RAPE GIRL. Recently, she’s begun writing an additional generically-tenuous manuscript on the intersection between trans femininity and ‘The Question’ of motherhood. This is her first publication in nearly 10 years. She lives, writes, and bartends in Brooklyn.  twitter: @veryhotmomm

Featured photo credit: Amanda Ollinik @Allunderonemoon