Pipe-Burst

In Memoriam David Michael Bowes

Minus ten for days — water giving way to tightening ice,
softness becoming hard, as liquid becomes solid
and molecules fight for space.
 
Inside rigid lengths of copper and polyethylene,
plugs form — cylindrical ice pistons, rupturing
couplings, finding the thinnest copper wall,
 
oozing ice-hardness outwards to find the space
into which its nature expands. Ice pressure everywhere
inside and outside these built walls — despite lagging,
 
mains turn-off, tap opening, the bleeding of pipes.
A heating coil did not drain, providing a confining space.
It’s physics, hydro-dynamics — a system of which we’re part.
 
Now, he uncouples the joints, the pipe-cutter
embeds its spring-loaded energy in the copper,
bisecting the pipe with each successive, anti-clockwise turn.
 
Push-fit give up easily, snapping off, leaving only
toothed washer to hack away. Take plumber’s wrench in one hand,
spanner in the other, turn opposing ways simultaneously.
 
Now, hear the satisfying crack as threads tighten around
PTFE twisted threads. Slowly he’s repairing, undoing ice-work,
under floor and sink, intuiting clock- and counter clock-wise.
 
Water finds its own level, around the ice-plugs, over floors,
through walls — a cycle of deposition, evaporation,
condensation, mediated by temperature and gravity.
 
In this scheme, he intervenes, forcing it through routes, channels,
pipes where it’s never been. Confined, it will always try
to break free. Lovingly he restores its exploitation,
 
knowing his work will bring the soothing spray of heat
on backs, clean dishes, kettles full again …
Water flows, pressure restored, equilibrium found.
 

Giles H. Sutherland
March 2010