This GIF, based on footage taken at Boulder River in the Cascade Mountains, is a preface to the now-released Oceanic Triptych.
Cambodian poet Chheangly Yeng, a former collaborator during my time living in Phnom Penh, has begun collaborating with other writers and producing video poetry on his YouTube page. One of the latest works, titled “Poetry video BTB F002,” linked below, is a fine example of this new work. The Khmer recordings are matched with English subtitles.
Throw water in the streets
And devouring hearts
And heart dissection
Here is the text from the video Thorough Water: Here and There.
Thorough Water: There and Here
“Water is part of a pattern I’ve watched unfold throughout my career. I document landscapes that, whether you think of them as beautiful or monstrous, or as some strange combination of the two, are clearly not vistas of an inexhaustible, sustainable world.”
– Edward Burtynsky (Walrus, October 2013)
“Human presence, once a factor less important to than elk or fungi, was then transformed into an agent of disruption as great as the ice ages themselves.”
– The Olympic Rain Forest: An Ecological Web, by Ruth Kirk (114)
Reasonable. The water still flowing in front of me, I remember sitting in place, stone monument, effigy of towers of wood and slashes of fern through millions of shades of green. While the creeks chugged along. The falls felled vision and circumstance. The tides were our breaths and the blood pushing against the walls of our muscles, skin, our frames.
Nestled. Nested. We can sit and watch the echoing of the scrapes against the land as that apparent infinity continues. I feel it now. The rumble. The roar. The press. And yet I know: what I saw was a marvel and could always move to the finite. To the nevermore. To the last stretch and the longing, so deep within, so trusted, this longing, this beautiful, fantastic emptiness. Quinault in daylight: where we go to think of loss.
“The bubbles formed a sweet-smelling bell.”
– from “The Bath” by Elizabeth Cooperman (in Make it True meets Medusario, page 140)
They demand our attention, and we enter, and we wait. A factory of water that sprouts awareness. Education. And the pure bliss of a splashing corridor. I could watch humans pass by this vision towards conservation over and over. I could watch them move along, cascade like droplets into some basin of rejection. Or perhaps they stop by: admire as a tarn, as a cache of the leftover, and move along. The conservatory: a museum of the living. More trust. More love. More responses indicative of demand, imperative, resolve.
The most startling quality: what we place over the core. The core identity, the core message: we cover ourselves and our lives and the truth up with decoration faster than the beat of the tongue on the roof of the mouth: faster than a single word, covered in moonlight or the fatigue of the sun as another day passes, and we must reinvigorate our experience. Calmly. Splash. Shatter of liquid. Present enough to touch. Present enough to coat the body, the camera, the phone, glasses, purses, the paths to our collective futures of transience. Of an abyss worth living through to grind surplus into the dust of departure.
3: Royal Basin
the quick water
the slow water
and the same bank
– from “Remembrance of Water” by John Taylor (26)
Before the marmot screamed me into electricity, I watched the flow of blue through an underwater lens. The capture of light in the process of refraction: muddy and undeniably instant. The present moment, at least as far as water goes, is a shockingly muted experience. But this was the case in the upper meadow-filled basin of Royal. I have memories as a child on the Atlantic Coast, Southern Maine specifically, where the waves would throw me around like a bundle of rags, and I would see black and green and white and silver as my crushed body struggled to make sense of tumult and torment. To give form to the instant, an instant so extreme that form was its opposite.
Royal Basin, though, where Amy meditated and I imagined more bears and the edge of the peaks looked down like wizards burying their rituals into my shoulders, my back, the upper tip of my spine, energy slowly spreading through, like snowmelt pushing down mountainside steadily, methodically. That is: of stead and method, and me, the onlooker, in awe. I think of the source and urge myself to remain cordial. Past days I would jump into those glacial waters emulating sage or celebration. Now I stare and grow fond of the chance to be amazed at a stillness created by the infinity. The water that can remain the ideal while we still have time.
4: North Cascades
“I feel increasingly content simply being here, present, not doing anything in particular.”
– Chasing Clayoquot: A Wilderness Almanac by David Pitt-brook (112)
Dams made of brittle, exacting concrete and metal. The resort that houses a semblance of menial organization amidst a system of ecstatic beauty. The towering giants with names I’ll never remember, and shapes that change in my dreams. The listless ripples that etch into the topography like scales on the limbs of a myth. It is in the North Cascades that love breaks apart into reality, and vice versa. It is in the North Cascades that the slices of nature afford us with breath and breeze, and there is just as much ordinary as exceptional. Ross Lake holds the footprint together. It is the instrument we have earned through preservation and attentiveness. And it is shrinking.
Seeing 10-20 feet less of a lake for the first time after many visits provides a hollowing sense of fear and an indignation so human it feels unique, untrue, questionable. There are many causes for less water, and the ecology is difficult to pair with witness. But there are moments that trigger an awareness of spectrum, and that spectrum is the development of the relationship with the many possibilities. Staring down at the lake, several years ago, I imagined swallowing the entire thing in a single gulp. It might be that that gulp is ongoing, now, and into the future, and the swallowing involves savoring the benefits through to exhaustion amidst awe. 10-20 feet lower, and my breath still wavers, my mind still feathery and bracing for tragic circumstances. And regardless, there is readiness. To be able to receive, and to do it gently. That might be what is owed, before the ends and the retributions.
Illuminates the sails
Leading and fleeing
Forgetting a presence
Aquam I: Mucous
across the lips
The following GIF and Video were created using underwater footage at Royal Basin, in the Olympic Mountains, on the Olympic Peninsula.
I have reviewed two anthologies at Yellow Rabbits: My Lot is a Sky: An Anthology of Poems by Asian Women and Call and Response: A Migrant/Local Poetry Anthology.
View them here.
My essay, “Poets, Dissidents and Librarians” is now available in the latest issue of Alki, the magazine of the Washington Library Association.
This essay explores some of the people I met, experiences I had, and perspectives I encountered during my trip to Myanmar earlier this year. It’s a nice blend of my library and poetry sides.
Read the full article here.
Additional Thorough Water videos from May 2019. These collect multiple shots per. Intentional focus on lower-density videos to capture the roughness of the experience. Both can be watched in HD.