Unpublishable: THIRST

Claire Donato


When I was 26, I got sick and wrote Thirst. I was sick for a year, covered in a rash that would not subside. This rash was a constellation of large red spots marking despair on my breasts, nose, mouth, forehead, chin and cheeks; my fingers, neck, collarbones, shoulder blades, hips, stomach, ribs, legs and obliques. I was a circle skirt toad. I was a red-spotted dress. I was Yayoi Kusama’s Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees, a roving site-specific installation. I was devastated; therefore, I did what any animal would do: saw a dermatologist who lanced off my flesh, saw a primary care physician who said what do you want a prescription for, saw a naturopathic doctor whose eyes were soul-windows. Then I smeared steroids onto my skin, hung a key around my neck, bought a keychain that says ‘clarity,’ started meditating, stopped eating dairy and gluten, and quit thirsting. But I am always quitting thirsting. 

Thirst was rejected from five chapbook contests and a literary journal. I wrote it five years ago, but it feels like I wrote it today. Someone once suggested that Thirst feels like the beginning of a larger project, but I don’t want to bring my body back to that spot.

— C.D., September 22, 2017, New York City



Image by Raymond Pettibon



Wine makes me sick like desire makes me sick, and philosophy makes me sick. Yet I wish to share with you my impressions of these forms. I hope I am not being too forward. Like wine, desire and philosophy make me feel ill, disappointed, miserable, perverted, abnormal, wanting to vomit, emotionally nauseous, frustrated, angry, and bored. They also make me thirst.

On what he calls the ‘thirst for profound pain,’ Nietzsche writes, ‘When it has passed, passion leaves behind an obscure longing for itself […] To be scourged by it must have afforded us a kind of joy.’ When I say wine makes me sick like desire makes me sick, and philosophy makes me sick, it is because these things (objects? concepts? abstractions? disciplines? diseases?) bring me pleasure in affliction: I become dizzy; I throw up. I regurgitate an over-stylized study of ideas, thereby satisfying my most masochistic inclinations. Or, I wake up with red spots enveloping my limbs, a disease doctors refer to as the following: eczema, psoriasis, Lyme disease, pityriasis rosea, a fungal infection, the side effect of a powerful antibiotic, and/or gluten. Overnight, for twelve months, I am a red-spotted toad.

Vomiting, itchiness, hives, rashes, abdominal pain, and screaming: In babies, these symptoms may be indicative of milk and dairy intolerance. In the actual world, they are a catalyst for looking back, for writing through, for articulating one’s base misery, the goal of which is to stop any heart. Because of all things—of all objects, concepts, abstractions, disciplines, and diseases—the heart is the origin of the nerves.

       Particularly yours,


* * *


I remember we were talking, we both felt sick, he was sitting beside me, the wine had become us, men can be likened to wine…

* * *



Wine is under the influence of language, and language is under the influence of wine.
Wine is the discourse of influence, and influence is the discourse of wine.
Wine presents us with a way of thinking about influence in terms of thirst.
Wine presents us with a way of thinking about desire in terms.
Wine presents us with a way of thinking about language.

Wine can make a person sick, sic, Sic., or sickly.
Wine can make a person faint, at which point she falls to her knees.
Wine presents us with a way of placing distance.
Wine is the practice of being deceived.

For example: If time is money, and you spend time on me, and you spill this wine on me, and wine is a mocker, and you are the drink, then the joke is on me.

Or, if wine is a mocker, and you are the drink, and you possess a deep plum color, and whosoever is deceived is thereby unwise, then the joke is:


* * *

Desire presents us with a way of measuring distance in terms of thirst.
Desire presents us with a way of writing through.
It is imbued in text as breath.
It is, therefore, the basis for inscription.

* * *


Only when these thoughts constellate will thirst become my thesis.

* * *


Wine presents us with a way of thinking about language. And language, per Paulo Freire, is never neutral. It is a series of deep-lying interconnections, the unity of which one can trace with a finger, a superimposed sheet of transparent paper. And once one begins to trace, one cannot help but recognize unspeakable patterns.

(I remember we were talking, we both felt sick, he was sitting beside me, the wine had become us, men can be likened to wine…)

Language may be topographic, of or related to the physical distribution of words in the mind, which rests beyond plain sight and is incapable of blueprint status. Although many fail to notice, dissonance between word choice and slippage exists, and within this liminality, language functions as a reflex, an automatic response wherein phrases, terms, and definitions communicate one’s inner world, a separate state. The output is uncluttered, an empty room.


* * *

I remember we were talking; the wine had become us. He was, I was. My question remains: Can bodies be likened to wine?

* * *

When one lifts a glass to one’s lips—when one, so to speak, takes a sip—one is quenching one’s thirst for one’s own inner speech. Correspondingly, one is also expressing a deeper need. Gratification of sexual appetite.

I must admit: He poured the wine into my
throat. I held it there,



* * *

Wine presents us a reserve of information. And information, as per a world stripped of artifice, is not fact. It is part of our animal body, our two sides, our way of seeing. My consciousness, my seeing-something, feels distinct; yet, in actuality, it reflects everything. And within its reflection of each thing—within its totality—it becomes a quality described to emphasize my own.

Some epidemiologists believe all of wine’s properties come forth objectively, in an objective way, as a matter of fact. Others believe the opposite: That wine is, in and of itself, a fluctuating thing, although its properties cannot be. Its balance, for instance, is determined by perception; the varietal arrangement and origin of the fruit source merely reflects the past. Wine’s descriptors—e.g., ‘cloying and coarse,’ ‘aggressive and hard,’ ‘expressive and connected,’ chronicle what we taste in our mouths when the substance sucks our tongue. In interpreting external stimuli, we gauge the distinction between what actually exists and what our minds extend outward. And one’s trust should never be placed in that which one extends.

The great man argues conversely. He imbibes at a bar in the void, acquiring so-called taste. Holding nothing, I brace his shoulders. He braces my belt. I brace his glass with one hand. He braces my head forcibly. I brace my breath, trying to control it. Entering my absence, he is unconscious. All that exists in this void—all I cannot stop—is this man as part of all men, the feeling of men in my mouth. In his layered darkness, I swirl men in my mouth. And as such, I cannot stop.


* * *

When we kiss, he always sucks my tongue out of socket.



He did it too hard last night, and now it hurts.



What to do to make it better?



* * *

oh haha lol happened to me once, the pain will go away eventually, and just tell him next time not to suck your tongue to [sic] hard. and yeah it does hurt tho…..


* * *


I remember we were talking; we both felt sick; he was sitting beside me; the wine had become us; men can be likened to wine. He poured the wine into a ceramic vase; I must admit I was not surprised to find it vile. ‘One physiological precondition is indispensable for there to be art or any sort of aesthetic action or vision: intoxication,’ writes Nietzsche. There are many types of intoxication: caffeine, cannabinoid, cocaine, hallucinogen, opiate, sedative, substance. Alcohol. Acupuncture. Wine. The feeling it saturates.

One way to gain control over thirst is to distance yourself from it using language. Paradoxically, expression elicits a powerful thirst. And wine is a natural dehydrator. It is also a poison, but calling it that is deceiving; the dose makes the poison. However, given the proper dose, wine can depress the immune system, causing a person to be sick.


* * *


I remember we were talking, the wine had become him, wine is a mocker

     : Men can be likened to wine.


I knew I was sick when the spots spread across my chest, tore atop my nipple like saran wrap stretched



We were at the beach conversing in the water



I took off his layers slowly. ‘Everyone is reading Kant,’ he said                                     (lol)



an adult male caressing the dark in the basement

, denoting an absence


‘There’s nothing romantic in kissing,’ he said



except the fact of dying, at the level of the sip he slipped



Grouper, snipefish, sockeye, trout cod, salmon


,       I felt


sic, (sic), [sic], Sic.


* * *


To thirst. To ache, to crave, to long, to yearn. A feeling of needing or wanting to drink. To suffocate, to experience feelings of scorn, even when one cannot find a reason to feel scorned. To desire to possess many things. To desire to possess even more. To have one’s heart set out among the grapes.

To thirst for, a preposition, governing relation. I thirst for his presence. He thirsts for my body, ‘cloying and coarse.’ Despite my excess, I am most encompassing, he says. Then: ‘You are rather sickening.’ I swallow, cannot keep anything down. Wine further dehydrates.


* * *


Wine is under the influence of language, and language is under the influence of wine. Yet it’s surprising how seldom we speak of wine’s emotional qualities, despite the fact that certain bodily responses associated with emotion—e.g., tears—go hand in glove with wine. Alas, when one speaks of what notes one tastes upon taking a sip, one speaks of lychee, molasses, hazelnut, and mint; pencil shavings, coffee, elderflower mixed with burnt toast; bacon fat, cat’s pee, geranium leaves, and fig. One never says, ‘This wine is open; it makes me feel closed.’ Nor does one say, ‘This wine is firm; I feel like pounding the table with my fists.’ Nor does a person deplete of feeling allow herself to acknowledge the sense of nothing that preceded the wine’s finish…


* * *


The glass’s long neck, its stem, stands in.

Its lip stands in.

Its bowl stands in.

Its foot—located at the root of its spine, its base—stands in.

For what does the glass stand?


* * *


The glass rises to the occasion: Once one begins looking closely, one cannot help but force it to adapt.

It is slender, perfect for cradling.
It is tall
Rich and full
Cut and impressive
It is most accessible, but be careful:
It possesses a lingering finish
It is complex, an excellent match
It is molded to look like a regular glass
It is closed
Powerful and aggressive
Mellow and angular
Refined and harsh
Goes a long way
Wakes up to undergo a second
Tastes generous
Has legs, also
Called tears
A hint of cinnamon
It burns

* * *

If I say philosophy is the object of my desire, I may be speaking the truth, although there is no way of knowing. Truth, like information, is linked to one’s cranial nerves. If I say wine makes me thirst, I am not speaking to my body’s absorption of knowledge, a supposedly tasteless liquid that is so too supposedly clear, a word etymologically connected to my first name—Claire—framed here by two em dashes, long dashes used in punctuation to demarcate a break in thought. Rather, I am speaking directly from the space within my mind where wine transforms the brain’s synapses.  The more penetrable the junctions between my thoughts become, the more sick (sic) I become. Little by little, memory clears, so as to reject its clutter. What, for philosophy’s sake, do I remember?


* * *


He was reciting neo-classical theories of truth; in my imagination, I was questioning him. Then he was no longer. He became another.

Looking beyond his facial expression parallels the moment one looks at a sentence and realizes it possesses depth beyond its surface: deep surface. I gaze into his dehydration’s depth, and I see into his death, where many informal forms of intoxication exist.


* * *


I remember we were talking, we both felt sick, he was sitting beside me, the wine had become us, men can be likened to wine…


* * *

Wine moves up the side of a glass and forms droplets that fall back under their own weight. These droplets, the wine’s legs, are also called tears. This metaphor is not an analogy. Wine is a mixture of alcohol and water, a lyrical coexistence of science and art. Its legs—its tears—function to annul the rational human. Which is to say, wine does not merely have an effect on a human; rather, it possesses that which we may call a complex affect. For the purposes of this discussion, then, wine affect may refer to any of the following: the emotional responses and feelings engendered by wine; the emotion a person experiences while drinking it; the mood invoked by the overall experience of the wine; or, with regard to philosophy, the state of a person’s mind or body as she drinks it, which may be expressed using the categories ‘pleasure or joy,’ ‘pain or sorrow,’ and ‘desire or appetite’ (cf. Spinoza). However, no category ever truly expresses a feeling. No morsel of language ever enters into a bona fide union with a person’s body’s exact sensory impressions. Thus, the experiential state wine induces—and thereby does or does not express—takes place within a pre-personal intensity, a molecular lapping, a betwixt the between, a becoming-vinous…