Poems for Oxfam Water Week

Oxfam is campaigning for a fairer world, where everyone has the water they need to stay healthy and to grow food. Access to clean water and adequate sanitation is basic human right. It is crucial in breaking the cycle of poverty, and in supporting young people to fulfil their potential. Considerable progress has been made over the past two decades. However, nearly 800 million people still lack access to clean water, and 2.5 billion to sanitation.

Oxfam has WASH programmes in over 35 countries worldwide, and works in rural and urban areas, in camps for refugees and internally-displaced persons, and amongst host communities. Each project tests new technologies and approaches to address people’s water and sanitation needs in a sustainable way. Local communities are involved in decision-making and project delivery.


Well dressing

A hazel tree, carrying sweet nuts,
shades the small pool
with its mossy edges,
where clear chill water
bubbles, and deep below,
the slow shadowy flicker
of an ancient trout.

You may drink there,
from cupped hands,
only in that autumn dusk
when days lose to nights
and a new moon rises;
the cold taste of
metal in your mouth.

Then you might learn the
trout’s ambiguous speech
its old wisdom of
balance and connection;
the world expanding around you
from this still centre,
to bind earth nematodes
with star clusters.

Therefore in summer
we lay around
these worn greened stones
patterns of soft petals
blue purple of cranesbill,
pink and red roses
yellow of day lilies;
perishable gifts of beauty
to dead beliefs, lost powers.

Ruth Aylett



A water land, a scene of water, deep
with light blues, and greens made deep by
blues. I think how in certain pictures,
envied landscapes are seen (by the waters)
far behind the serene of placid surfaces.
The water we drink is freshly sweet, and cool,
as though with berries. We are here. We are here.
Set this down too, as much as if an atrocity had
happened and been seen. Our waterland is beautiful
beyond all change.

G. E. Schwartz


(on an illustration by Arthur Ransome)

Even water reflects as we observe
the sky leach blue through lifting mist,
contemplate the folly of fishing,

each of us wishing he’d missed the boat:
four hooks re-baited, four lines re-cast;
four rods probe still air for hours. Still

nothing happens: except the sun
gets higher, brighter, hotter; insects zim;
steel-blue swallows skim. We float:

four pairs of heavy eyelids almost hide
four scarlet tips immobile over their inverted images;
four slack lines of introverted thread

between our common inactivity
and four private worlds where even loved-ones
become no more than rainbows

in a place where sorrows merge with joys
deep in a pool of comatose introspection
as each moment ends as the next begins.

Peter R White

1 thought on “Poems for Oxfam Water Week”

  1. What a great way to involve poets and readers of poetry in such a worthwhile cause. I have heard & read on several occasions that fresh water is probably the BIGGEST problem facing the world – it’s at the core of everything. I have just pushed the Donate Now button on this page and made a donation to Oxfam to help celebrate Water Week! Great poems, everyone 🙂

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