“Nothing is plumb, level, or square,” Alan Dugan writes in “Love Song: I and Thou,” a meditation on the persecutions of marriage. My own marriage feels sturdy and steady, full of joy, but all day long I walk through this drought-plagued landscape thinking that nothing in the world is plumb, level, or square. Inside, wooden doors hang crooked in their frames; the hot wind blows them open. Outside, the land has tightened and contracted. To the east, forests are on fire.
The earth is cracked, constricted, a bloodless sore. Leaves that should be a hundred different colors are dusty and faded, curling at the edges before they even fall. In the garden, the soil is powder; brown stems lift from it as though they’d never had roots, as though they were formed by heat and air.
For months the land has been pulling away from the edges of the world. A day of rain weeks ago was not enough—hardly more than spit from a parched mouth. Nothing fills the cracks in the dry ground; nothing rises from the roots to hold up a flower.
Everyone is talking about the drought; everyone is worried, even in this town with a deep river running through it and all the water we can pay for only a twist of the faucet away. Every morning I drag the hose out and fill the birdbath with water. The desperate robins hardly wait for me to turn away before they crowd the edges of the shallow dish to drink and drink and drink.