"Jeunes Provençales au puits (décoration pour un panneau dans la pénombre)/Women at the Well," by Paul Signac

The Water Crisis & Coronavirus: What Have We Learned?

How do governments, societal groups, and individuals respond to national and international crises? “And so I went to Peter’s well” is a polemic regarding the world water crisis, specifically the activities of the Nestlé Corporation and its continuous pillage. The title references an Austrian Folksong that reflects the late CEO’s name, and he quoted another folksong in a documentary which the poet quotes in the epigram. The words serve as a chorus. “Threnody” was written when 50,000 people had died from COVID-19, which was more than the population of the town the poet grew up in. Now, with over 1 million deaths from COVID-19 worldwide, it is important to take a step back and analyze national responses around the globe. Are some nations better prepared to deal with crises than others? What accounts for the differences and how can we improve national and international management to safeguard against inevitable tragedy?

And so I went to Peter’s well

There’s that lovely old Austrian folk song: “The dear cattle need water, fallera, falleri,” if you remember. Water is of course the most important raw material we have today in the world. It’s a question of whether we should privatize the normal water supply for the population. And there are two different opinions on the matter. The one opinion which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.

Peter Brabeck-Latmathe, former CEO of Nestlé

We are spun from the elements,
A sack of minerals but for the dance
Of atoms that made the rain;

It has graced the clouds,
Kissed the mountains,
Wrought the sea that lives
In our veins —

A mystic music we divine
With a rod, collect to cisterns,
Race though aqueducts,
Hoard in great towers.

Entire civilizations have fallen
Bereft of it.

Wasser braucht das liebe Vieh,
Fallera, falleri!
*

From a pristine fortress in the Alps,
A suit proclaims that we have no
Human right to water,
That everything must have a price
Just as he has his.

Wasser braucht das liebe Vieh,
Fallera, falleri!

He leads a global bememoth
That stalks indigenous springs
To drain and sell back for profit.

Chilean peasants are arrested
For gathering the storm,
The Guarini threatened.

Und jetzt gang i ans Peters Brünnele….+

We fear armies of annihilation,
But under our noses,
An avuncular pitchman,
A happy clown,
And a cheerful song:

Wasser braucht das liebe Vieh,
Fallera, falleri!

We may well die of thirst.

Fallera, falleri!

*The dear cattle need water, fallera, falleri.
From the Austrian folksong, Wasser ist zum Waschen da
+And so I went to Peter’s well, title of an Austrian folksong

“The Starry Sky,” by Konstantin Vasilyev

Threnody for what we have learned

No basta un minuto de silencio para pedir condolencias por 50,000 almas.

Kyra Galván

So far, 50,000 dead —
arc of graphs
and a gruesome calculus,
figures spent over the air,
statistical,
unreal.

50,000 —
the populace
of my hometown,
a tally in which
I can still connect
faces with the numbers:

The dedicated healer,
a beloved teacher,
the policeman
and the postman,
a son,
a daughter
and valued elders,
the anonymous
bagged in makeshift
morgues,
and even the strident
denier,
all essential
in their own way:

Every loss
forms tributaries
of grief.

What we have learned:

A life
is not a single
star,
but a constellation.

*A minute of silence is not enough to ask for condolences for 50,000 souls.


Robert René Galván, born in San Antonio, resides in New York City where he works as a professional musician and poet. His last collection of poems is entitled, Meteors, published by Lux Nova Press. His poetry was recently featured in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Azahares Literary Magazine, Gyroscope, Hawaii Review, Hispanic Culture Review, Newtown Review, Panoply, Prachya Review, Shoreline of Infinity, Somos en Escrito, Stillwater Review, West Texas Literary Review, and the Winter 2018 issue of UU World. He is a Shortlist Winner Nominee in the 2018 Adelaide Literary Award for Best Poem. Recently, his poems are featured in Puro ChicanX Writers of the 21st Century and in Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art and Thought. His forthcoming books of poetry are Undesirable: Race and Remembrance, Somos en Escrito Foundation Press, and The Shadow of Time, Adelaide Books.

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