A Meditation on Water Beginning With Men Fishing a Flooded Avenue. 

Patrick Rosal


Three men to a net usually. Even a big man can’t swing one across his body alone, the cords twisted together with field grass and young bamboo. Someone built a wall in the clearing and a window in the middle of the wall. And now the wall’s in the middle of a lake, so if you stand at one end of the meadow you can look clear into the mouth of the man on the other side of the half-finished masonry screaming. The hemp knots have burned raspberries into his wrists. You guess he’s calling out to someone you don’t know. 

There are farmers dressed in all white. There are oceans filling the kitchens. This is the bucket that saved my house. The first thing I brought to the second floor was my guitar. I had no idea where the water was coming from. I didn’t know how to survive at the edge of a lake but I loved the sea. I could tread out in the breakers for a whole afternoon. My cousins taught me how far I could go out and still come back. I never tested the ocean.

Sometimes I was dragged along the coast and got tired enough I had to kiddie paddle back to shore. Once the riptide yanked me almost a half kilometer. I wound up in front of the governor’s mansion where his dogs roam free on the beach to run down intruders. I stayed close to the tideline in case they broke toward me. They trotted behind but kept a 50 meter distance.

You want alone? I’ll show you alone. Check into a third-rate motel on a beach no one but the locals know of. The rooms are all furnished with twins. The caretaker’s wife hangs laundry out your window. And his four-year-old delivers your booze by the bottle. I don’t wonder any more how you can find yourself treading water in a yard where two days ago twenty men butchered a goat and stuck a rice pot under the bleating beast’s throat.

They cut fresh garlic and poured a cup of vinegar into it, the hindquarters already roasted and chopped into rough bony cubes, which you’re urged to dip into the fresh drained concoction with your grimy hands and eat. You could lick that pot clean. You could dip to your knees carrying a plate to the graves of the dead. Enough flesh from one animal—bile, tongue, heart meat and all four feet — to fete until 2 a.m. Dawn— the water’s boiled, the chopping block long salted and rinsed, the instant coffee on the table. The radio says Signal Three is coming.

No one starts counting the lost until the news cameras make it. The kids skip stones in the rice crop waste. The ladies pray to the blue virgin. The farmer’s plot for the mayor’s neck is postponed a week. Your cousin cleans his gun out with a toothbrush. The hut builder loans out his tools to the workshop in town, which has taken over the seamstress’s space next door. The saws and hammers go for days. They are hauling them in for days. The fresh caskets pile up in the street. The bodies are lined up side by side where the wailings begin on the feast of St. Thomas. There are enough musicians for the procession. There are no weepers to be paid. The father reminds his son to fetch an extra sickle to scrape the grime from the stone engraved with the names of the newly dead.