Cover Image for To Touch the Water
  • Series: Modern & Contemporary 17
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-916272-16-6
  • ISBN-10: 0-916272-16-8
  • Pages: 60
  • Size: 6 x 8.5 x .25 in
  • Price: $9.95

To Touch the Water

Gretel Ehrlich

At the time To Touch the Water was published, Gretel Ehrlich was a filmmaker, essayist, editor, cow- and sheepherder, part of both the West and New York, as well as a poet. The poems here speak deeply of personal experience. They are portraits of the people who have pressed their lives on hers; strong open images of the landscapes that are the West, complete with storms, drought, sun and wind; love poems as large and grainy as the landscapes. Death is never far away. Although her poems are personal in detail, they speak to all about the truths love and life hold.


The full text of Gretel Ehrlich’s To Touch the Water is stored at Albertson Library at Boise State University, and can be downloaded here. You may also purchase a copy of the book.

Other Seasons


Long flanks of snow straddled and

drifted my cabin all winter.

Held me the way a man would

if there had been one here.


If only I could drift into a place and

hold a time of year so elegantly.

Then break my legs leaving

to embrace the awkward spring decay.


You should hear the way snow

sizzles and shrinks, hisses and rots away.

Overnight someone new steps into

those white thighs and drags herself downhill towards


the next season. A thunderstorm

unties the sky. It composes and decomposes darkness,

and forgives what it has gathered there

by letting it rain.


Rain opens like a woman’s shirt and

showers milk on corn.

A flood starts inside those ears,

a stranger’s teeth drown in silk.


The rest of summer is

dust and under that, a thousand miles of

surface straight down.

Autumn comes


on bruised light, its knives and forks of

electricity carving sheets of rain.

Fall is breeding time. The bucks

are put in with the ewes


and under them dry grass

couples with snow.

Are we really

genetic or seasonal—dust to dust to dust—


everything skin-deep only?

This morning the last glass sill

of ice windowing the river

held what I am when I’m alone


but feel someone else

moving in me.


Copyright © 1981 by Gretel Ehrlich