Behind glass, the tall blue pumps
that manhandle city water
look placid as the Buddhas
in the museum’s Temple Room.
I press my face to the window
as if pining to worship objects
far more useful than I am.
The building’s smug with silence.
The stages of preparation—
intake, filtering, ozone
discharge, sediment removal,
pumping to the hilltop reservoir
in Belmont a mile to the west—
occur in confidence like
espionage or adultery,
leaving only the subtlest clues.
I want to ride the water
from here to there and back again,
surfing through the massive pipes
with high-voltage tingling.
But in the sediment pool the scum
of organic waste conceals
water so thickly aerated
it can’t float the human body,
so anyone falling in would sink
instantly as if falling through air.
The orange life preservers
hooked to the railing are useless.
The plate glass clouds with my breath.
I wish I could at least hear
the hum of the pumps, but maybe
like the singing of the sirens
it would foster that restless passion
that settles on any available
object and roosts there, crowing
over self-effaced success.