My sister the Buddhist monk says the highest motive is to be like water. To think, I’ve scoured countless books of philosophy, religion, poetry and all along the answer was in my faucet. Let’s see, I’m 65% water, so with or without motive, aware or unaware, I slosh around inside my clothes. Sometimes I can see through water, other times I can’t; sometimes I feel clear-minded, more often I’m murky. I sit beside a river, ask what it feels like to hold fish and frogs and snakes and stones and muck and twigs and even a discarded, dented license plate. Also if when it drowns someone does it ever feel regret. I ask if it gets tired of living next to people, if that’s why a flood happens: is it trying to make a run for it? Water barely mumbles. Maybe water is shy. I wade in up to my shoulders. Inside of water’s skin you become its heartbeat. When it rains I stand in the yard at midnight, swear I feel thousands of tiny fingertips. Are raindrops dead relatives touching us? As a child I liked to jump into puddles, when did I stop doing that? In the womb I swam in the dark, even then I was afraid of sharks. Waves don’t know the difference between coming and going, maybe there is no difference. Water dreams of more water, sometimes of stones. Water doesn’t need sex, but sometimes it likes to watch. Water has rings like trees but we can’t see them. Water believes it is ageless. Still water is a mirror, running water is many mirrors. The full moon makes water emotional, the sun is its caffeine. I call, tell my sister I’m really trying. I even try to make holy water by taking normal water and boiling the hell out of it. She doesn’t laugh. Buddhist monks tend to be serious. She says she meant water asks nothing in return, it flows humbly. I say maybe so, but I’ve found that thirst makes water feel needed.
Neil Carpathios is the author of five full-length poetry collections, most recently Confessions of a Captured Angel (Terrapin Books, 2016) and Far Out Factoids (FutureCycle Press, 2017). He is a professor of English and Creative Writing at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio.