The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2020

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APRIL 2020 Issue

from Water & Power

Eating a freshly fried egg at 10am is one of the ways I indicate to myself I am experiencing a day without compelled paid labor

I’ve called in sick and it’s warm, the sky’s blue

People say the light is different in California but I’ve been here all my life

People say you can measure the size of raindrops by examining the colors in a rainbow but I’ve never tried

I carry my symptoms to the pole past the metropole, waist deep in marsh muck

The bell rings as the waters rise over the base, which is what generates the winds, with the flows and with the floods

The population is assembled and made to produce a surplus

Rations are parceled into beveled bowls

Shocks are absorbed by unnamed unfortunates

I push paper for students steering Teslas

They pump groundwater from boreholes

“The rich are only defeated when running for their lives”

This the building song, the current carves the course

The green open-office is constructed of congealed bones and guts

The millennium tower is sinking

Every day I am covered in water twice and also uncovered twice

The cat and I sit and listen to Phillip Glass and our ears perk up

The cat is a loan, like the house and the Honda

Our transaction is fulfilled in symbolic form

We are strangers to each other

Sub-prime subjects shellacked into liquid lives

Sometimes I rebel against the slop and treat myself to a salad

I throw my belongings out to sea and this brings me great prestige

The ATM’ll “shit money if you know what numbers to tell it”

The land is scrubbed and repurposed

They build prisons on fallow fields because there had been drought

Because there had been drought fires rush across the land

To fight fires they use the labor of the people they imprison in cages

My brother says if people in cages accept pennies to fight fires that’s their choice, I ask my mom how he got this way

My mom gave birth to me, child number three, when she was 34, the age I am now, childless

What is the water doing before the ducks disturb it?

If we stay real quiet will the landlord forget we’re here?

Clomping through the market, munching on the carrion

After the geese have come and gone

In the wake of the break

I rush home to curl into the last slice of light penetrating the house

On that slice, on this abiding earth I stand

It wasn’t the truth but I knew with certainty it was true to me

They push poison pills and heat-seeking fangs

But our skin is supple and tenacious with fellow feeling

And we can slip like ghosts into the water

Past the dune, the foredune, the berm, the beach face, the trough, and the bar

Knowing what we refuse

Our obscurity is due to being made of our surroundings

And if you move through that, repeatedly, you can move through anything

I was taught my skills in the meeting house and also under the moon

In the material sphere beyond private skin

I was taught yews came before churches, property is plagued, keep your top eye open, make wine from plums

Remember to balk when the engineers speak glowingly of the human-like countenance of the delivery drone

The robot on Dwight and Shattuck collapses, I mean I collapse it, I kick it to shreds

My paycheck is a ration, my paycheck is a ration, ask forgiveness

Along the edges of the scrum, ask forgiveness

Excerpt from “Water and Power” from Little Hill by Alli Warren. © 2020 by Alli Warren. Reprinted with permission of City Lights Books.


Alli Warren

Alli Warren is the author of the poetry books Little Hill (City Lights Books), I Love It Though (Nightboat Books), finalist for the California Book Award, and Here Come the Warm Jets (City Lights Books), Poetry Center Book Award winner. Alli has lived and worked in the Bay Area since 2005.


The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2020

All Issues