Florence, Katrina, Maria: The Standpoint of Water

by Leah Griesmann

“This is a tough hurricane—one of the wettest we’ve ever seen. From the standpoint of water, rarely have we had an experience like it.” — Donald Trump


1 Florence

From the standpoint of water, fish are pieces of sparkly jewelry

From the standpoint of water, a boat is ticklish

From the standpoint of water, the earth is a giant pizza crust that keeps on encroaching, so water keeps slapping it back

From the standpoint of water, the sun is a flashlight and the moon is a secret

From the standpoint of water, a shudder, a ripple, a wave


2 Katrina

When the levees gave out, the water was troubled. When the damn broke, the water was mad. Water was tired of being labeled the bad guy, just for doing what water’s got to do. Water flows, water surges, water rises when ever given the chance. But it seemed like everyone had it out for water, trying to pile it with sandbags, stop its direction, hinder its flow. Everyone was coming at water with boats and bails and media cameras, shouting at water like it had really done it this time, when they were the ones who had built the damn dam in the first place. Why couldn’t everyone just look at the situation from water’s point of view?


3 Maria

“In a certain way, the best job we did was Puerto Rico, but nobody would understand that. I mean, it’s harder to understand.” — Donald Trump

I see her hips first, the sway. Then the long curly hair falling down her arched back. Her bare arms are sweat-bathed, her skirt is bobbing above strong brown calves, a gold chain on a slim ankle. I wait every day just to see her, lapping the shore with a view of the café she meets friends at in Yabucoa.

You might not know what it’s like to suddenly increase in size. To not be able stop it, I mean—like when a tumor metastasizes, overtaking the body, or the Hulk bursts out of Bruce Bannner’s tight pants.

I didn’t use to swell like this. I used to keep it in check. The tides changed, they say. The ice has melted.

You wouldn’t know that I too dreamt of closeness. That in Yabucoa I only wanted to embrace her hips, her arms, surround her tan flesh with my warm salty frothiness, support her while she swam with her face to the sky.

But the rains came and the tides kicked up and the temperatures rose like a fever. Yet I would have forfeited my every sea just to plant a wet kiss on her lips and not carry her on her stomach.

Too much of water hast though, Poor Ophelia. Her clothes spread wide and mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up,

From the standpoint of water, the earth grows smaller; the people no longer recede

From the standpoint of water, a home is a conch shell, a town is a twig

From the standpoint of water, the earth is on fire, a heartbeat, a siren, a wave


Leah Griesmann has received grants and residencies for her fiction from the MacDowell Colony, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, the Virginia Quarterly Review Writers’ Conference, The Key West Writers Workshops, The Writers in Paradise Conference, as well as a Steinbeck Fellowship in Fiction. Her short fiction has appeared in PEN Center USA’s The Rattling Wall, The Weekly Rumpus, J Journal: New Writing on Justice, and This Side of the Divide: Stories of the American West, among other publications.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The Standpoint of Water”?

I wrote “The Standpoint of Water” after a call to participate in an AWP offsite “partnered” reading event, mostly to help get over my fear of live readings. I began “The Standpoint of Water” as a kind of response to a piece on Hurricane Maria by my reading partner Robert Egan. Before writing the piece, I kept staring at length at one of Donald Trump’s most ludicrous statements on Hurricane Florence. What I didn’t anticipate was that this bizarre quote would become my entry point to really consider what water’s standpoint might be.


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