Poetry December 2008

Buoyancy

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.

Presented by

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

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her middle school. Then Humans of New York told her story to the Internet—and everything changed.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

Video

What Fifty Shades Left Out

A straightforward guide to BDSM

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In