Flood Lines (a River of Words poem written during Frequency Open Hours, 11/30)

Fluid exuberance and stagnation under a warm wind.

This water a full mistake outspoken.

Prepare to move your house back.

Make a house you can move.

Take to the boats.

Ink of the water tattooed on the land.

It takes a long time.

Amazement flowing from your eyes in sight.

In a formless where the form was region.

Sight in being bloated and swept away.

All the bonds dependent on containment inundated.

The river undertaking the map.

When you return what do you return to.

The river, its banks sodden cushions.

The banks, sodden cushions, return to the river.

Weeds tangled higher than before, fish stranded where land is where water is.

Unbanked, storeless, overwritten.

Water where it doesn’t stay.

But since everything is kept we did not disappear.

We just changed places, live for dead.

The problem is how to return as if nothing had changed

Or how to change by saying once the water was here where land is, was.

No matter what you built for it to overrun in, to withstand or channel.

Once to withstand or channel the pattern of water like a crossed letter.

A flood line backs up in the palm.

How and when will the water carry or abandon you, a matter.

It sounds wild like that but don’t be swept.

You won’t like it.

You won’t return.

You will be left.

To carry isn’t to care, necessarily.

We changed places, landbound for waterlogged.

We changed places, housed for houseless.

We like the water changed the places we were.

Our places were us, only better.

We ran out of words but not out of water.

The water ran out of our hair, off our clothes, down our bodies, turned the mills of our eyes.

If you want a word from water don’t come to me, I’m all full up.

Once the water contained me.

Now the barriers are breaking down.

I take a warm wind into my lungs to flow but not to flood.

I count on them to be a barrier.

The water has come to me before, but this undoes me.

The water of how can this be.

The taking away of time and work, the shoring up.

The frantic air when you know the flood is coming.

Structures, statutes, boundaries will not hold.

And did not hold.

Mold bloomed on everything in your whole life, insisting on its life.

Whether your faces or backs were turned towards it.

Who will measure, with a brass marking, the rise of the water?

Coming down, wading through, suddenness.

Does every flood recede?

Does the water stay spread out under a warm sun?

How did it interrupt you?

How did it speak over you?

What the flood says is suddenly not a word.

A song like this, it drowns you out.

From sudden to sodden.

From log to keep.

Cast up on a wet tongue of land.

Or knocked out by floating debris.

The flood comes from a false premise.

We didn’t realize how good we had it.

We didn’t actually have it.

We didn’t have to explain ourselves.

Actually, estuary.

Dry grass, wet grass in a flash.

The undercurrent of song asunder.

We stood on opposite sides of the rising water.

The water came down, the water came up, where were we.

What will you say when there’s no one to ask you.

What will flow out of your mouth and redrown your hearers.

Only a month or so after the first time.

Where the river receded, a desert.

Later and later, inundated, unrelated, interrupted, faithless.

We actually know very little.

When what the river taught us subsided, we were stunned, if not felled.

What the river thought was us did not subside.

Or we the living became dead and left our names in the writing of our bodies, which fooled no one.

Flooding the opposite of what is owned and known.

I sound like a river of blood about this but I’m not.

The water, warmed and thus bigger, how much bigger.

The rise railed against before it fills the mouth.

I know people panic when they drown.

If I didn’t drown and my sister did, I would imagine it.

Everything I imagined would be it, I know it would.

Above the river, on the bank, I borrow trouble.

I try it on, try to prepare to know it.

Why did you build by the river, they’ll say.

Why did you love anyone who could be carried down.

We don’t count water.

It turns the number of dead to the dead.

It turns the dead into wheels turning within it.

Knowledge built, designed, to be swept away, replaced.

In small strung pieces, bright mirrors pierced and tangled by the water.

Spangled and tarnished we flow like this, out.

We flood like this, over.

An edema of the lungs of water.

An aneurysm of the arteries of water.

Names swept away like spangles, laughing.

The brown water rises, resistless, through fear.

The laced water, rising, stopping short of the brink of the chemical vat.

Once you make something terrible what do you do.

Submerge, subside.

And nothing will be as it was, not the land and not the water, not the taking and not the will.

The breathing of the person hiding from the direction of the wave becomes heavy.

If they find you drowning in each other’s arms they’ll tell a story.

But if there’s no one to find you there will be no story.

The flood is what I mean and feel.

The flood is the matter, revision of matter.

Please don’t think I’m giving myself.

Everywhere now the water’s edge.

Every brink, every drop, every fall, every motion slow or whisked by.

It was as though we’d never seen water before.

It was as though water had only been inside us and now we were useless.

All the roots with more than they knew what to do with, all tides altered.

We could be forgiven for thinking, but not if there’s no one to do the forgiving.

We could say it would be easier to not survive.

But that presumes thinking is the hardest, the worst thing.

To go or stay, float or sink, all seem wrong.

We were flooded out, we drowned, we were no longer.

We were a sheet of silver in the gathering dusk.

Full of bodies and pieces of things built or cherished by bodies.

We could say, “With no place to go,” but we’d be wrong.

It’s just not a place we want gone.

Does it matter when it happens.

When it happens does it matter.

Matter and will, a wash.

To go for broke, to float at stake, to anchor, to strangle in the anchor chain, to drown in a net of bright mirrors.

The water is innocent.

We have this knowledge.

A record in lines in a dripping hand held out.

How did you do it, how did you survive, did you do it by clinging to something.

You can’t have done it by letting go of everything.

You can’t just have trusted to luck and been all that was left.

Yes, that was what it was, the water.

But weren’t you trying to outlast the flood?

It’s hard to say exactly because all this water keeps pouring out of the mouth, and sediment staying there.

Take a break, then.

Read the signs that you are full of water, that you have been stunned and are now recovering.

There is no land that can stand this. Or there are, but they’re not here.

All the people who said, “Preparedness,” are dead, desalinated.

All the people who are dead are precipitated.

That’s how death works, I mean rain, I mean deluge, I mean worthiness.

The standards are drowned.

New high water mark.


The water for years, wandering.

Now I’m wandering.

Wrap up with a hot drink.

No, nothing wet, and the blankets are wet.

You’ll soon be dry again.

There’ll be no again.

Oh, stop.

How hard is that to understand?

We call ground solid, land dry.

We dress for the weather.

I don’t want to interrupt you but I do, I do, I want to flow down.

The water flailing from high to low.

The water razing from low to high.

Are you ready to drown?

That’s a good question.

Any question is good if you don’t know the answer.

I see you’re biting the river of your lip.