Practical Water


What does it mean to live a moral life

It is nearly impossible to think about this

We went down to the creek
The sides were filled
    with tiny watery activities

The mind was split & mended
Each perception divided into more

& there were in the hearts of the water molecules
            little branches perpendicular to thought

Had lobbied the Congress but it was dead
Had written to the Committee on Understanding
Had written to the middle 
    middle of the middle
    class but it was drinking

Had voted in cafes with shoplifters &
    beekeepers stirring tea made of water
    hitched to the green arc

You know that picture of Rimbaud   
    hair choppy bowtie untied
    Rimbow rainbaud baudtie 
He’s the one


An ethics occurs at the edge
    of what we know

The creek goes underground about here
The spirits offer us a world of origins   
Owl takes its call from the drawer of the sky

Unusually warm global warming day out

A tiny droplet shines
    on a leaf & there your creek is found
It has borrowed something to
    link itself to others

We carry ourselves through the days in code
DNA like Raskolnikov’s staircase neither
    good nor bad in itself

Lower frequencies are the mind
What happened to the creek
    is what happened
    to the sentence in the twentieth century
It got social underground

You should make yourself uncomfortable
If not you who


Thrush comes out from the cottony
    coyote bush glink-a-glink
    chunk  drink
    turns a golden eyebrow to the ground

We run past the plant that smells like taco sauce

Recite words for water
    weeter wader weetar vatn
    watn voda
[insert all languages here]

Poor Rimbaud didn’t know how to live
    but knew how to act
Red-legged frog in the pond sounds like him

Uncomfortable & say a spell:
blossom knit & heel affix
fiddle fern in the neck of the sun

It’s hard to be water
    to fall from faucets with fangs
    to lie under trawlers as horizons
    but you must

Your species can’t say it
You have to do spells & tag them
Uncomfortable & act like you mean it
Go to the world
Where is it
Go there

Brenda Hillman is author of many books and chapbooks, the most recent of which are Cascadia and Pieces of Air in the Epic published by Wesleyan University Press. She is the Olivia Filippi Professor of Poetry at Saint Mary.