Even starlight wants water.

Everything thirsts:


otters and dragonflies,

and pine woods we used to call our garden.


Even burial fires want rain.

It’s a ladder for the dead.



Why a dragonfly?

To leave the air and be an island.


Why starlight?

After eons, to finally see its face.



I stood once under the sprinklers

and saw them: spirits


uncertain of this signal,

this half-ascending, half-fanning


across the field—

should they climb now,


or wait for real weather?

I couldn’t say.



You can make fire speak

by striking a match.


You can use the wind

like a rope.


But water will drought you,

or drown you,


or not.

It decides.



It’s a full song, water.

It’s a voice with no need for guitar.



Hold on,

you’re using three hands, not two.


Start again

at the beginning.



Out of the darkness,

a river of light.


Then cedars rose along lakeshores.

And water was there,


God’s heartbeat,

the engine of it all.


Rob Carney is the author of four previous books of poems, most recently 88 Maps (Lost Horse Press 2015), named a finalist for the 2016 Washington State Book Award. A fifth entitled The Book of Sharks is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in July 2018. His work has appeared in Cavewall, Stoneboat, Columbia Journal, Sugar House Review, and many others, and he writes a regularly featured series called “Old Roads, New Stories” for Terrain: A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments. He lives in Salt Lake City.