Poetry December 2008

Buoyancy

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A swimmer swims out through voids of drypoint, inkwash,
He dives deeper than the artist etching him on the plate
Can follow, he dissolves into blues and blacks, into the hush
Of stone that underlies the waters. And he senses how his fate

Is neither his nor his maker’s: who is he that the waters
Should compass him about? Out of sync, in sync,
At the bottom of the sea he finds out his own nature:
Ragged sail; a skim of oil; torn envelopes; a house key blank.

So my swimmer, come back out of the depths,
Remind me how each summer the bottom gives way
To another bottom and another, another … that whoever keeps
Going down goes down atmosphere by atmosphere, living it day

By day until the whole ocean’s bulk balances on
Your shoulders. And now that you’ve grown
Up and into it, no one but you can question
This buoyancy that weighs you down.

Tom Sleigh’s most recent collection is Space Walk (2007). He lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Hunter College.
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