It seemed I had always been kicking
in the fringing reefs, fiddling with my breathing
to find a buoyancy I thought was neutral.
Don’t get me wrong: there was charm
to the coral coliseum, light curling
right to left on the golden vase sponges.
Mostly I had been holding my depth gauge
in front of my mask like a railroad watch,
telling me where I had to be, my hand opening
too soon for the anchor line.
Today I am rolling into spangled
blue with no air in my vest. I’ve quit signing
OK. I am not equalizing, inflating,
adjusting, or looking for my buddy.
I drop like windswept rain over glass.
A stowaway on a blue exhale.
This is the wall of my free descent.
and bright flourishes, annunciating
anemones flaring like Roman
candles. Sea fans swaying
in a last red trace
past nothing I am owed or owe.
A satin ball, huge as Saturn, hangs
from the lowest branch. I reach
for its crescent lights and it falls,
Red tentacles spill from my fingertip
into a waterfall, the chrome, the porcelain glowing.
Lesson: Wonder precedes and postpones pain.
The tangs and triggers wave
from their convertibles. The peppermint wrasse
hides and reappears, tilts and twirls, comical.
skillet fish flash like dimes in a gumball machine,
pop up and vanish into slick, chromatic sheens.
A spotted moray lurches purple and black
but doesn’t bite, skirts the whorls of tender pink
shells then disappears into the mind’s blue cup.
Only a dream, I was told: the water
rising around the legs of my high chair,
tin cans stacked like doubloons.
First the water swallowed
the linoleum, the baseboards
then the cat’s red dish, the teetering blinds.
I once dived along the platform’s algae-
shaped legs thick as a lady’s stockings.
Spearfishers, sharp barnacles,
a sudden chop, all dangerous
in the confines of the rig.
A mobile of lookdowns
in a glowing white thermocline.
Above us a buoy sounding steady
as an artificial heart.
No quiet like inescapable quiet.
Demand. Valve. Draw. Pull. Hold.
Her mouth seals my mouth.
Her body seals my body.
I am so full, inside the trees,
in the field, on a child’s bed,
I break elemental.
I beat the lungs. I free flow.
A silence behind the staircase
where only souls can fit.
The disk of sunlight at the surface
is less a roof than the wide rim
of a bottomless shot glass, or the spinning
jeweled ballet of a mirrored box.
My body falls, an effervescence,
a threaded streamer, a thought about to sleep.
How could I miss what remains above me?
And here where the light passes off—
a green sea turtle, no longer clumsy
on the hard shore, wrangling with a trawl,
or bobbing bloated on the surface,
dives under me. How little we have
to say to each other, how its limbs move
for mine. Today I drop past the jellyfish’s
giant ghosts into a black mouth, a bliss.
Sliding deeper, not to see the stars
again, but to fall and release the fall.
My smallest bubble rises on its own string
and narcosis with it, beginning.