For years, there was emptiness; there was no water. River sat scorched by the Sun, parched and aching like the back of a sore throat. Where was all the water? River was empty, empty. The Sun had filled River with the fear of the pain of drying into emptiness, emptiness filled with fear of more emptiness.
The only time River remembered water was when river was filled with cloudy confusion. Often confusion came to River when River felt most fearful. Confusion came suddenly, thick and heavy clouds billowing into River unexpectedly. Confusion’s presence gave River some comfort, because confusion reminded River that she was not alone, that this dry emptiness would pass. But when confusion left, just as suddenly and unexpectedly as confusion’s arrival, River was twice as empty, and she blamed herself.
When River reflected on her dryness, she blamed every piece of herself for being empty. First she blamed her rocks: she had never seen rocks as strange and ugly as these. The ugliness of her rocks must be the reason why she was so empty. She hated her rocks. Next, River blamed the plants that grew in her. She blamed her plants until she believed that they were so large that they must look unappetizing to water – without her plants even the smallest drop of water could easy run through her. She hated her plants. River even blamed the air she breathed. By this time, River hated all the pieces of herself so completely, she thought, why would air ever want to be breathed by her? She never said anything to air, because she knew she needed to air to live… but there were times when she quietly held her breath for a very long time.
In the beating Sun’s rays, River began to erode into dry dust. First, River’s plants began to shrivel up. Without her plants strongly rooted, River collapsed in on herself. Her, once strong, muddy walls were dry and weak now. They crumbled inward every time the clouds of confusion left, leaving her dryer than ever.
Even when River was as thin as could be without disappearing, she still blamed herself. But River was thin and empty, barely a crack in the Earth. And so, River blamed the earth she lay in because she had nothing else to blame. She blamed the ground she lay on, the ground water she drank from, she blamed the shifting of the tectonic plates that brought her life.
As she lay there, withering deeper and deeper into nothingness, Earth began to feel River’s hatred blooming against her. Unable to stand the pain of her existence, Earth swallowed up River. In a moment that could have been a lifetime, River tumbled through the depths of earth.
Existing, ceasing to exist, and re-realizing existence. Re-existing in newfound portals River discovered that through connecting with ancestral Earth, she was able to connect with water all over the world. Under Earth’s surface, River realized interconnectedness of another dimension, one below the Sun’s gaze. Re-joining with this underground power, River began the journey of re-joining other sources of water within and throughout Earth. The power of underEarth water of another dimension brought sources of water wakeful clarity, shimmering with such true reflection that it beamed the Sun’s bright gaze straight back at him.
Zàira Lee (she/they) is a poet and performer, whose current body of work seeks to honor, protect, past/present/future ancestries of gender and sexual violence, through ritual pole dance. This body of work draws from their experiences of sexual/gender violence and domestic abuse. Zàira is currently one of nine flagship 2016 Queer Emerging Artists-in-Residence at the Destiny Arts Center.
Photo by Aidan Jung Bosanko.