Dry Things (from VQR)
The water level
comes up when
you throw in
sinks. It’s a
don’t you think?
Why read poetry? This short poem ends with a “miracle” we should consider, “dry things letting us drink.” I can hear the collective groans now. Some of us hold we know of greater miracles, and don’t want that word trivialized. Still others see a really lame joke: How can what is dry aid what is moist? That lame joke almost seems matter for pre-Socratic philosophers, ones employing opposing elements such as air, earth, fire, water. Thus, for a third group of people, poetry’s intellectual scope is limited to 3000 BC or something equally remote and backward.
This poem puts me in the awkward position of showing that “dry things letting us drink” can rightfully be considered a miracle. Alright then. “The water level comes up when you throw in stones, bricks, anything that sinks.” At the well needing water, this is close to a desperate situation. We want to drink. Hearing a splash, we know some water is down there. In fact, we’re very sure quite a lot is down there.
So should digging commence? There’s already a hole with water, found naturally. Thinking through it, finding the best solution, keeps as much as possible intact. Thought is rearrangement. It’s not easy truly thinking, to be sure. In order for the water level to rise, we have to throw things in such a way that the water is not simply covered up. We need the earth to rise evenly, without cracks that let it all slip away. And this needs to be done quickly, so we can actually drink.
It’s possible all this can happen. “It’s a miracle when that works.” Thought led to an ideal plan, one which could be executed well, and one which was executed well. The oppositions of language governing all this – the heavy sinks, the light rises, water is wet, containers dry – are oppositions of our own mind. They’re useful for grasping parts of the situation and can give us control. But they can be traps unto themselves. It’s only as a whole that they come to define, establish, initiate optimism.