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Hydro Psyche
(Water Spirit)

Deep cracks spread 

dry as a riverbed

after drought.

Storm clouds debate,

threatening to break,

strong winds gather force. 

I am lifted from the

chaos of the world

light as a parched leaf,

longing to feel alive,

rise above this pain.

Beneath me

the ground groans,

begging for

the respite

of rain.


I seek no shelter

from the storm

only solace in

a sodden graveyard,

soaking up history -

names and dates on

wet slate slabs,

introduce the dead:

Men who strived for survival

amongst the brittle bones

of the mines,

women who’s stories

were never spoken aloud,

their names mis-spelt

by the stone-mason’s

unskilled hand.

Children who were lost

to Typhoid, buried

in this sacred place.

A white quartz cross

commemorates quads, 

who’s short sweet lives

still stir pools

in empathetic eyes.

Six tall stones surround me

their force is strong.


I stagger



the ancient woodland,

feet tripping over

tangled roots, 

slip-sliding steps, 

through mud and moss

in dirty pools of despair



I hear her call…

track her, 

ear to the ground,

leaving behind


planning pillage, 


who’ve lost 

their place

in the heart

of the village, 

hungry birds of prey

they gorge themselves

on my misfortune, I sway,

take hold of the rail,

bridge creaking, rain lashing, 

washed out face, pearly pale,

hardened outer shell cracking.

I breathe in hope, 

to hear her

call again.


Sound is filtered, distant taunts 

trapped in dappled beech leaves,

until the bare, low branches,

jutting like old men’s teeth,

allow her deep murmur through  

there…….the broken,




It is her, she speaks 

as though in ancient

tongues of tribes 

huddled in hollow 

plunge pools, where they

fished, washed,

baptised their young.


I hold out my arms,

believing I am alone,

praying she will carry me 

to a kinder place.

Tear-blurred eyes blind me

to the river world, to the life

that clings under rocks, sticking,

moulding, weaving their homes,

knowing their purpose, knowing

that time has no meaning,

will stand still, in this bedrock

and ice-ages pass unnoticed.


With sturdy steps now, I wade

into her unfloundering flow.

The water grows blue black

As the evening light fades.

Before my eyes open, I hear her voice, 

muttering, gurgling, chuckling to herself.

A frog hops onto my forehead and off,

I shiver, but do not rouse myself, 

from my stone bed.


My body is stiff, 

Limbs numb, 

yet I feel 

more than ever – 


a warm breeze 

melts me,

I have



The cadence of

her call echoes

through my

hollow chest

Dere!  let me

wash your feet,

soothe your body,

cleanse your wounds.

Dere lawr!  

Drop from the

overhanging wood 

and gorge yourself

on river life,



in me.


I gasp and cry out!

My feet scramble

for something stable,

tread water and then

flat stone steps,

tilted layers,

time has worn smooth.

River bumps on my skin,

river water in my nose, 

my mouth, my river hair,

flowing through the gorge,

spinning in the potholes,

tossed and turned 

by turbulence:

There is no fear, 

here in the river world.


Sun rises and sets and

rises again on the river 

where dappled light 

dances the Jac y Do,

lavae pupate,

the Caddis strive 

to weave a web

of shelter, still

harbours near the bank

promote the River stuntmen -

Water boatmen, Whirligigs.

Dragons and Damsels

skim the surface,

flashing their peacock wings

in the sunshine.


Gripping a stone tightly in my fist,

I roughly carve my grievance

deep in a jagged rock;

throw it hard into the rapids,

which over time, will wear down 

the sharp edges of my pain.


At first my old self appears

when least expected,

on the surface of the water,

my staring eyes,

in the hollow stone,

my voice,

in a cormorant’s cry.

The tightness in the pit

of my gut twists.


If I sit though, 

without moving,

eyes closed,

letting the river 

into my head, 

flushing thought,

gently, slowly,

the warmth of the

sun will melt

the sadness into

bright colours………


I start to sketch -

siltstone, shales, slates,

sandstone, sedimentary rock,

potholes and plunge pools,

millions of years deep.

I hold the lead pencils and 

thick white paper, close.

Fill the pages with 

river life, with debris,

flies, larva and bones

of dead sheep.

But the colours in my head

cry out to be released.


The river enjoys my attention

showing off her magnificence 

in the sunlight; in the moonlight.

Hiding her secrets in the shadows,

willing me to find them,

to lift a flat stone and reveal 

the underwater treasure. 

She invites me to paint 

her white rapids, 

through the gorge, 

the amber outcrop,

tilted layers, green and gold

over the tumbled blue-grey rocks 

to the violet lip of the falls:

She is worth painting after all -

more ancient than the pyramids,

a pilgrim descended from 

Pumlumon Fawr,

she mentors me to 

paint the days,

from dawn til dusk

draws me back 

with hope

into the 




I can sit for longer now

sculpted into the rock,

my eyes search

the crystal water

seeking a palette

of colour. 

Hikers cast 

guessing glances

at the crazy person,


amongst the 

regular riverscape.


I am a gold digger 

for riverlife,

treasure hidden 

on the riverbed

on boulders and potholes 

thriving, fruitful…

moss animals,

marsh marigolds,

small willows taking root.

Mouthless Mayfly 

adult for just one day,

they cannot feed, but

mate to pass on genes,

then gently fade away.

The Caddisfly creates

a case of tiny stones

to hold and protect

woven together with silk,

an underwater architect.

The Hydrosypche amaze

building intricate capture nets

lining the sides of the potholes

shredding and recycling,

paying their eco dept. 


Look into the eyes

of the Dragonfly,

multifaceted globes

reflect his life

in splinters of light.

His intrigue spreads

across the world,

his iridescent body 

kaleidoscopes as it

speeds through air,

skimming the surface.

Strong transparent wings

twist and delve into

deeper understanding 

of his own existence.

He pirouettes,

with ballerina elegance

and bows down to 

the vastness

of the universe. 


I am never lonely

by the river’s side,

whether on my own

or when others take

the same air, share

the pleasure of her peace.

I challenged a fisherman once

with “live and let live”. 

He told his tale

of how he fished from 

the age of five, 

with string and stick. 

The trophies of trout

he proudly took home

for his mother – to 

see her rare smile.

His father crafted  

a business of flies, 

he left to his son

in a box when he died.

The Fisherman told,

with tears in his voice,

“It lifts my mood,

the running water,

the sound itself,

it soothes,

a rhythm it is

which moves

through my body

flushing debris 

into the open sea.

It calms, it does”, 

he shares

with me.


I shared my encounter

with the huge salmon

face to face

under the water 

of the deepest pothole.

recently returned from the North

to spawn, upstream, 

turning, leaping, 

navigating his way,

back to his birthplace.

Finally, defeated by life

I felt him shudder 

his life force leave 

with the riverflow,

trickling slowly,

musically, over stones.

He flagged and was still. 

It moved me to tears

to see this magnificence

fade before my eyes,

camouflaged in the rockcurve,

floating lifeless in calm waters.

Dolanog, Dolanog, 

Croeso ‘nol.


I once saved a life

A kayaker who overturned

but didn’t drown that day.

Through battlefields for miles

he carried his vessel,

fighting the farmers,

spitting and territorial,

to reach the rapids,

to feel them drive

over his body

drumming out the

thoughts in his head.

Paddled downstream 

cradled by the banks, 

ducking the branches,

floating with the debris

to the lip of the fall.

The horizon hummed

with adrenaline and

beyond, emptiness -

tipped to an angle 

of ninety degrees,

he let himself go

over the edge

of the earth

sliding down

a cascading

curtain of



His yell

was echoed

by mine

as the fledgling

was flung 

from his nest,

tumbled and spun

in a whirlpool,

of white.

The river like a

Tiger, playing

with her prey.


Then sinking,

black bubbles

breaking on the surface

he wrestled with the beast

and for a moment 

a switch was flicked -

no light, no sound,

just a dark empty space

until his foot touched

rock bottom and he 

pushed with all he had

and surfaced, gasping.


I pulled him back to land

and for some time,

together we sat 

shivering on stones,

gazing at the sunset 

through the reeds,

in awe of the beauty,

this second chance of life.



I hear the river call,

through snow and sleet,

as buds appear

and burgundy leaves

begin to fall.

The light must be captured

in these shorter days.

I paint with a swift brush

feeling the strength 

and pace of the river.

She is more powerful than

I have ever seen, more

dangerous, as beneath 

her smooth surface,

her drag can drown a man.


On the river bank,

a woman wandered off,

they brought her back

but off again she wandered.

The dog walkers knew her,

a kind old lady who always

passed the time of day

they said – quite posh

she was, well spoken,

well travelled, well meaning.

The river didn’t lure her in -

she slipped, muddy feet

on wet long grass, lost

in thoughts of a man who

died a decade ago and

still inhabits her every day.

Seconds it took from standing

to sliding down the banks,

grasping at stones and earth

which crumbled around her.

The water was numbing,

it stung, penetrating her

threadbare cardigan, her

thin nylon trousers, chilling

her bony limbs, numbing

her knobbled fingers, 

grasping for something 

no longer tangible.

Stillness followed, 

she floated, staring skyward,

mesmerised by the moon

“Swim” the river urged, “swim!”.

She held the woman up, 

juggling her body in the flow,

frail and light as

falling leaves.

Then feeling her limp 

in her hold, she






I ponder possibilities

of past lives, on a bank

which no longer exists, where

women washed white clothes,

scrubbing them on flat stones

and children played too close

to the swirling, licking tongue

at the edge of the fall’s lip –

one slip…..


My old self seeping

back into the space 

inside my head,

pulling at the peace, 

drawing me away

from the colours. 

Hopeless eyes appear 

deep in the potholes,

lashes thick as the reeds.

The tightness returns

this time in the centre




Winter water has whisked

up the silt in the bed,

spring shapes forming, 

new life hatching,

thoughts are drifting,

days are growing,

spirits slowly lifting.


I slide, in between

the warm rock flanks,

spreading my hands

wide, tightening

the webbing between

thumb and forefingers,

letting go,

breaking the surface

of the waters,

submerging myself,

mind, body, soul.


Summer sun warms

the crumbled mine

looming from an

arid moonscape. 

It’s toxic metals

have been stripped,

from the river,

cleansed by filters of

compost and cockleshells,

to reveal her crystal water.

She once ran metal yellow

with zinc and lead

which washed out

the lives of miners 

turning old before

their middle age

or floating

forever young, 

as ashes into sea.





Cwm Rheidol.


Her voice is quieter, rippling,

tapping on pebbles, playing,

the timbre is changing

mellowed by the ribbon leaves,

of wheat and corn, flaying

in volume and frequence. 

She feels the invasion

of new poisons polluting,

preventing again

the flourish of riverlife.


A year has passed.

I am now part 

of this landscape

no longer 

an observer,

I swim, sink

and float again

to the surface,

drifting like a

piece of




I have learned

the difference between

plants that love shade

and those that prefer the sun.

How fast a flow 

they will tolerate

before they are 

washed away.


I dip my fingers

into the flow,

feel the cool 

rush through

my arm, my heart.

I have been torn apart

and glued back together,

piece by piece, one

vertebrae at a time.

This new space is mine.


The steam train

tourists look

down on us,

in Cwm Rheidol,

curiosities searching

for Caddisflies,

we are engrossed;

bent over, jeans rolled 

to our knees, 

in our sandwiches,

the cheese is sweating,

bottles of water

are cooling

in the shallows. 

Today I have brought

“the naughty boys”

the ones they always

leave behind.

Here, they are absorbed,

the river pushes them

forward easily, as

specks of Duckweed

upon her surface.


“Jo - can we stay yere? 

go on, yeah,

it’d be cool,

could build a den,

a raft to watch 

the fish an’ that.

– what’s them 

round tents called?

You can build a fire

inside, hang out

and talk and stuff,

fall asleep like,

when you’re tired.”


In the spotlight

of the sun, not

hidden behind


of the past, 

new voices,

warm and laughing,

calling my name,

excited to explore,

happy to play.

I leave behind

the old self

which cost

much more 

than I could

ever afford

to pay.


I have stepped into the water

leaving landlife for a time

turning the stones

to reveal other worlds….

and when the light fades

and I pack my bags,

the Hydropsyche, Waterspirit,

remain, weaving their

silken capture-nets to

the changing rhythm 

of the river’s eternal song.


Liz Pearce April 2023

Hydro Psyche
00:00 / 23:01
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