I am the world's most peripatetic poet and writer. Currently, I'm living and working Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, but next month I'll be living in an art studio on Pomona, California. In six months, I'll return to being a full-time professor at Mt. San Antonio College, and who knows where I'll live then. I'm also the author of seven books including Dual Impressions: Poetic Conversations about Art.
Your Story of Water
You move east of Los Angeles
when you’re four years old,
and even then something feels off.
Where you came from,
you stomped on the edges of rivers and rain puddles
and watched bugs walk across the skin of water.
The desert was a far-off dream.
When you move in,
you stand in your parents’ backyard,
tilt your head back,
and watch the wind blow dust
across your new sky.
Your mother comes up behind you,
jokes that it looks just like the end times.
When you’re eight,
your first drought starts,
and the governor tells restaurants
to stop serving water.
Your father takes you up
to the reservoir
to point out the bathtub rings climbing the valley wall.
That night, your mother reads Revelation
out loud after dinner.
She raises her eyebrows specifically at you.
El Niño years come and go.
When the torrents start,
you ride your bike in the rain
and imagine your body is a dirty flatland,
your pores sucking up moisture.
You stand on the bridge
over the concrete river
and watch the thirty-foot trench fill
and drain off into the Pacific.
In these years, when you dream of Revelation,
Death rides a white skiff.
When you move to London
at the age of twenty,
the river becomes your fetish.
You come from a city of salt water,
and everything is fresh here.
It flows through the downtown,
and the misting rain is a constant.
You stare at swirling eddies
until your professors
ask if everything is all right.
When you finally have to move back home,
a tiny masochist part of you finds
a relief you don’t discuss.
You spend your adulthood trying to move away,
but at cocktail parties and coffee houses
in distant cities,
no one understands you, not really.
They like you
but can tell you’re off
even though you don’t talk about water.
The drought has moved inside of you
as it has with everyone else in the city.
You carry its lack with you,
the way you carry
your mother’s dreams of the end of the world.
-published originally in the Broad River Review
©2015 John Brantingham