To Write Water
Francesca Rendle-Short and David Carlin
splash splish wading through thermometers of snow rivulets trickles gulp and when it goes down
It starts very slow with a drip.
That’s the first thing. An invitation to write water.
Then this: slam poet and Djapu writer from Yirrkala in East Arnhem Land Melanie Mununggurr brings with her the skins of saltwater people, memories soaked in water, where the water remembers. She takes us to the reeds, the rocks, and rivers, takes us to the edge of intricacies of water-knows, gives us colours of the earth, gives us bloodlines and pain—so much pain—asks the whys of beats and bruises and resistance in ashes, in salt, in sand.
She tells us again, again the water will remember all.
When the Water Stops
As the climate turned, it hurled at them bushfires that razed huts to the ground, dust storms that swept away families, drought—all the cattle and sheep gone, reduced to skin, then skeletons. At first, the villagers took turns on the bleed, sharing dreams and fears, understanding that as a people they were the same.
But a typical grown male has a blood volume of just five litres—a forty per cent loss is deadly. The threshold thirty-nine per cent has only ninety-two per cent water in it; the rest is washed away in glucose, hormones, proteins, fats, vitamins, mineral salts and carbon dioxide—what good is it? C02 may induce dizziness, tiredness, restlessness, convulsions or coma. So, given all the minuses, how much water would be left from a bleed to go around a village?
Quand l'eau se tarit
(French translation of ‘When the Water Stops’)
Lorsque le climat changea, celui-ci fit flamber des feux de brousse qui décimèrent leurs huttes, précipita des tempêtes de poussière qui emportèrent des familles entières, balaya leurs terres d’une sécheresse – tous leurs bestiaux, tous leurs moutons disparus, la peau sur les os, puis de vrais squelettes. Au début, les villageois se relayèrent pour la saignée, échangeant rêves et inquiétudes, convaincus qu’en tant que peuple ils étaient tous semblables.
En revanche, on sait qu’à peine cinq litres de sang ne circulent dans le corps d’un homme adulte – une perte sanguine de quarante pour cent est fatale. La valeur seuil fixée à trente-neuf pour cent ne prend en compte que quatre-vingt-deux pour cent de liquide ; le reste emporte glucose, hormones, protéines, lipides, vitamines, minéraux et dioxyde de carbone – à quoi tout cela rime-t-il ? le CO2 peut provoquer des vertiges, une grande fatigue, de l’agitation, des convulsions et même le coma. Alors, étant-donné tous ces inconvénients, quelle quantité d’eau peut-on estimer gaspillée au terme d’une saignée au village?
Turbidity. Tur-bee-dee-tee. Say it together with me, children. Turbidity.
The daughters and sons of the rich island-state learn the vocabulary first. Sitting at their tiny desks, in the middle of clean-room kindergartens, under the glare of energy-efficient LED lights, the little ones parrot their teachers. Wrapping their tongues around the terminology that has made their city the most powerful on Earth. Tasting the syllables of wealth and influence. They cock their innocent heads and try again, harder. The words are slippery in their mouths. They taste astringent and bitter like chlorine. Metallic like copper. Attack the nostrils like ammonia. The little kids blink away stunned tears as the teacher uncorks vials of chemicals and waves them in the air. Only an involuntary reaction. They sit with their legs hooked around the legs of chained chairs. With clenched fists on their hot laps.
Total Trihalomethanes. After me, now. Heterotrophic Plate Count. Very good…
Thick and Thin
Cheng Tim Tim
In Hong Kong, we say blood
is thicker than water, which is to say
our blood ties bond us, such
bonding, a given since birth,
undeniable, inescapable, the blood ties,
our basis for forgiveness,
forgiveness as our basis…
when there are no more
(Translated from Burmese to English by Kè Su Thar)
is there no more tie now
just like the circulation of water stops
and no more water-drops?
when doting on, we do dote passionately.
when hating, we do hate absolutely,
just as a withered branch crackles…
When the Water Stops, Again
Plantes acaules, rouges, sortent de terre. Puis flambent.
The earth spills blood dust, blood rust, blood ash.
Time gorged with death.
Déchirure du ciel.
Une saignée, une excavation, une faille avalant l’horizon fracassé. Déjà enfoui.
Un peuple exsangue.
Détournement de mots.
Fire, dust, drought, Babel.
In ‘When the Water Stops’ Eugen Bacon has created a fascinating and deeply engrossing fable about a disaster set in Africa that spans light years. The location is apposite: Africa is the so-called cradle of civilisation. But in many ways, this is an allegorical fable about what the human race faces here and now. It could therefore be transposed onto any continent.
The story offers glimpses into a disappearing way of life—indeed into disappearing life itself. Climate change catches up with an unnamed people in an unnamed nation state. The consequences are dire. Climate deaths happen at first randomly, then order comes in the guise of power fuelled by fear, and deaths occur in accordance with a sinister plan devised by the leader of the nation and implemented by a man turned scavenger, evoking notorious genocides such as those perpetrated by Hitler, Mussolini and Idi Amin Dada…
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