My favorite poem by Lucille Clifton:
the mississippi river runs into the gulf
and the gulf enters the sea and so forth,
none of them emptying anything,
all of them carrying yesterday
forever on their white tipped backs,
all of them dragging forward tomorrow.
it is the great circulation
of the earth’s body, like the blood
of the gods, this river in which the past
is always flowing. every water
is the same water coming round.
everyday someone is standing on the edge
of this river, staring into time,
only here. only now.
Every water is the same water coming round. I love how Lucille captured the cyclical and interconnected nature of everything in this poem. She points to our mistake of thinking any thing or place or person can be separated from another. The water in the Atlantic is also the water in the Pacific and the Adriatic and so on.
I learned the concept of interdependence through Buddhism. Nothing can create itself without the help or presence of another thing or condition. Seeds will not grow without water and light; children will not be conceived without two specific cells and a conducive environment; water requires both hydrogen and oxygen. Try as we may to individuate ourselves, divide ourselves into this group and that — us and them, it’s not possible. It’s not possible to prevent a drop of the Atlantic from becoming a drop of the Pacific. It’s not possible for humans to completely separate themselves from each other, the past, and the future. For me, all of this is present metaphorically in Lucille’s poem.
The title poem of my new book was written in response to a painting in which water features prominently. In my poem, water functions as both connector and divider of different lands, a thief of my grandfather’s native Italian language, a source of fossils and livelihoods. It is essential for life and can also take life away.
I can’t remember a time when I was not fascinated by water, its power — its ability to change, create and destroy. I hope you will set sail with me on the journey that is this book, questions for water.