Sonya S. Fehér & Jeff Knight
The process of writing "Thirsty" was a multi-step collaboration. The first phase included two sets of timed writings: go for five minutes and use particular words somewhere in the writing. Then we wrote two exquisite corpses. Each one of us began by writing two lines of a poem. Then we folded the paper over so only the last line was visible and traded the corpses back and forth until they felt done. We also each found two poems we had previously written that had similar themes, images, and/or language to what we'd written in the freewrites and corpses. We took all of the writing and highlighted our favorite lines then extricated those, ordered them so that they told a story, and added transitions.We had been in writing groups together for years, meeting on Sunday afternoons and using Natalie Goldberg's rules for writing practice from Writing Down the Bones. This particular collaboration was to create a duet for our work on the 1999 Austin Poetry Slam Team.
Days grow brittle with age
drop their flesh
melt into an earth of
rot and mulch
fresh young petals grown salty.
A splash of rain
leaked into my fingertips –
the sky a door closing his mouth
Nothing astonishing about it, just
Sunday mornings and the theology of dogwoods
or shadowy preludes gathering pools
to drink away parch.
Eyes, those crickets, burn stars
on the yellow sky. They wish for light,
for drought, the thread-hold of stem to branch
so parched drops might split them.
Did you know that river-spirits drink only wind
lost in the almost lightless space
blowing thoughts that bubble westward
smell faintly of soap-ghost
a squeak of windows rising
splashing across sad music.
The cornfed moon fattening on a vine of sky
ripens its swell of belly on lovers and madmen.
Ingest the rain
or lack of rain
or the earth
that gives herself over
into clay pots and gold teeth, until
we are in a new place.
A splash of rain reminds
the black remains of pine and sage roadside
they could have been saved.
I want rain gentle, gentle, gentle...
that empty churning of broken moons
then a thrust from cloud to ground,
the pounding that bends leaves to a huddle.
As days ran into darkness
the drought thrived
closed down forest land
begged for just enough rain to bring lightning -
a spark for dried fields of words
crisp on the stalks of soured friendships
a spark for dried bundles of memories
like kindling-wood that season
and the mis-inclination for winter will only
leave you dried out with refusing snow.
This summer and the one before
have not loved the living,
prefer a choke,
wish for life
that is tenuous.
Between drought and rain, there is
the sharp smell of change. It will age the sun
about to punch through storms, the bulb
about to blossom, the tendril
about to vine its way to some new place,
the day about to break.
It will rob saliva from your throat.
I’ll have the empty sky with a twist of lime
I’ll have the darkening day in a whiskey glass
We’ll stare into the cathode desert
that sucks the juices out of anything crisp
Wind and sun the only force here,
heavy as a buzzard circling
a tapestry of marrow
dribbling from broken bones.
Watch these ripples we can shout against
The Big Swallowing Silence
willing motion across restless surface,
scattering the broken gears of every thought.
He wandered toward what looked further
than he’d ever walked
or could walk in his lifetime.
He put one foot out, looked down
at one boot, then the other,
concentrating on pebbles and cacti
instead of the silence.
Between light and dark are the myriad
shades of becoming
the spinning of draining phrases
It was no time really
or whatever time you’d like it to be.
The longing time
when shadows remind you of loneliness.
It is after sunset that the air turns thirsty.
Sonya S. Fehér lives and works in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared in publications including elimae, Literary Mama, Oklahoma Review, and Lilliput Review. You can find her at http://sonyafeher.com. Most recently, she was anthologized in Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages.
Jeff Knight is a writer in Austin, Texas. His work has previously appeared in Rattle, Prairie Schooner, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and the children’s magazine Cricket, among other places.