Amaranth Borsuk & Terri Witek
Dear Citizen of No Rain:
Woke pre-alarm with an earwig: Chove, Chuva—and immediately couldn’t say what the 2nd line should be. A description: Constant is the rain, or a (translated) instruction: Rain (on) without stopping? That’s the kind of thing that divides people in my world, where it rains so much, into sentimentalists and labor leaders. But now I wonder if it’s you who pushed this tiny puzzler/prayer out and about until it crossed the long air between us and dropped into my ear, which itches. 6am does tend to crank out the tunes—do you get these too? You might think our children’s Rain, Rain, Go Away brings just godawful luck and keep that one locked up. Here we sometimes all breathily sing it or Row, Row, Row Your Boat to lengthen our handwashing rituals and use up some rain. Both emerge ironically amid our gushing faucets, of course. What splays from your pipes, I wonder?
Too personal? Too near some O hole and not close enough to those gray, mothy clouds that hang another hard day between blues? Too late for old Auntie /Anti - Flo/ Flo? Even though we’ve never tugged each other’s rainboots, I think you, too, must have children, that maybe you’ve been pregnant many times. To build and hold water? To do your bit? I’ve been that way too, but for reasons I can’t recall. I pushed my little boats out of bracken and into a stream, though, and remember them falling away.
Does your world put up safeguards where rain falls away? Ours are mostly sand so rain’s inhaled mercilessly—or so opine gardeners. A bus driver beepbeeps again how rain sheets her route just one street over. Everyone here studies rain, this to say, probably because there’s so much of it. We all alt + control worries:
Do moths drown?
Do birds drown?
Do fish drown if pulled backwards?
Can chickens drown in a water bowl?
Can racoons drown dogs?
How long does it take a wasp to drown?
How long does it take an ant to drown?
We also clank day’s garbage cans back from the curb and eyeball what’s sloshing. Rain is just what’s practiced here, a stranger who cool-fingers us daily. But with moments that ice things: let’s say btwn drprprppps or inhale + ex. A wonky exemplum might be that while rainfall gets counted ultra-precisely here, as if for a star chart, extra zeros glide in somehow. Maybe that’s the transmission.
Printed this in what-else-but for you:
Dear Denizen of Skyshot,
I picture you living in an echo or a boat at the bottom of a fountain. Where did that image come from, my wishful addendum? I’ve so much to tell you and so many questions. Our sky is bright and strafed with cirrhostratus. Are your clouds healthy? Whole? I’m doing my citizen research, my repetend contributing to inflation. What do you need to know about our situation?
It rains most in the mountains, maybe 100 days of the year, though, here, where I live, the sky tries and tries, but produces mostly empty signals or fine mist. Our annual allotment of rain would fill a fist. Any precip. from the Hyades is channeled to farms in the foothills, and those of us further downwind will never see those agricultural palaces. Our rations arrive each week in unlabeled cans, and we forage what we can’t. I haven’t heard the cymbal crash of a thunderclap save onstage, where they still perform The Tempest regularly and Act 1, Scene 1 gets ovations every time. Ariel and Prospero were two of our most popular names the year I was born, but Indra, Doda, and Oya always top the charts.
Our dawns are dark, and heat seeps slowly, radiating from rocks and roots before we even see amber glow. What is a flood warning? A retention pond? Irrigation is outlawed, but we harvest water where we can and share when we don’t need our full subvention. I feel the wind building its net when I go out for my evening walk—something holding us all together or holding us back, our bodies slack in 4pm’s gradual flamestroke. Most folk lay down each night whispering Yes, this is a good year, and near enough at hand, the nightstand’s drinking glass resonates sundown’s pull-tide. Hopeful incantations aside, we pride ourselves on our quenching pills and powders. It’s an ultramarine cluster bomb, my lungwhistle, in-out, in-out, in-in-in, like breathing through muslin. I can’t remember the last time I felt a stranger’s skin. I live in a small town where it’s easy to cross away from oncoming bodies and keep your substance. My pinkie once brushed another woman’s curly grey-black hair on the bus, when we all still went to work. She didn’t feel it, didn’t look. And I never stood out in the rain or rinsed my feet in a puddle, even as a child—we were taught not to acknowledge what falls from the sky, ash or wash, not get drawn into shame and speculation.
Amaranth Borsuk is a poet, scholar, and book artist working at the intersection of print and digital media. Her latest volume, The Book (2018), is a concise volume on the book’s changing technologies that bridges book history, artists’ books, and electronic literature. amaranthborsuk.com
Terri Witek’s most recent book of poems is The Rape Kit (2018). She directs Stetson University’s undergraduate creative writing program and with Brazilian visual artist Cyriaco Lopes teaches Poetry in the Expanded Field in Stetson’s MFA of the Americas. terriwitek.com