Notes for “Practical Water”
by Aiyana Braun

Practical Water was written as a commission for the Berkeley [California] Symphony’s 2018-19 Season for their performance at the Bay Area Book Festival. The work is inspired by a poem written by Bay Area poet Brenda Hillman, which is as follows:


Practical Water by Brenda Hillman

What does it mean to live a moral life

It is nearly impossible to think about this

We went down to the creek
The sides were filled with tiny watery activities

The mind was split & mended
Each perception divided into more

& there were in the hearts of the water molecules
little branches perpendicular to thought

Had lobbied the Congress but it was dead
Had written to the Committee on
Had written to the middle
Middle of the middle
Class but it was drinking
Had voted in cafes with shoplifters &
Beekeepers stirring tea made of water
Hitched to the green arc

An ethics occurs at the edge
Of what we know

The creek goes underground about here

The spirits offer us a world of origins
Owl takes its call from the drawer of the

Unusually warm global warming day out

A tiny droplet shines
On a leaf & there your creek is found

It has borrowed something to
Link itself to others

We carry ourselves through the days in

DNA like Raskolnikov’s staircase neither
Good or bad in itself

Lower frequencies are the mind
What happened to the creek
Is what happened
To the sentence in the twentieth century
It got social underground

You should make yourself uncomfortable
If not you who

Trust comes out from the cottony
Coyote bush glink-a-glink
Chick drink
Turns a golden eyebrow to the ground

We run past the plant that smells like taco sauce

Recite words for water
weeter, wader, weeter, vatn,
Watn voda
[insert all languages here]
Poor Rimbaud didn’t know how to live
But knew how to act
Red-legged frog in the pond sounds like

Uncomfortable & say a spell:
Blossom knit & heel affix
Fiddle fern in the neck of the sun 

It’s hard to be water
To fall from faucets with fangs
To lie under trawlers as horizons
But you must

Your species can’t say it
You have to do spells & tag them

Uncomfortable & act like you mean it

Go to the world
Where is it
Go there