A floating bubble underwater
Nanna Heitmann / Magnum

The Bends

A poem for Sunday

When the doctor sliced open the body,
soft still to the touch, apprenticed
to expression, when the flesh

was pulled back between index and thumb
revealing the armor of breastbone,
imagine he who saw the heart froth,

the heart bubble over like soda water.
Then think of grief leaving the body,
flitting like salt to the nearby sink,

and joy like atoms joining in air
toward another living promise.
Under the night of millions of gallons

of water, the man had been building
the Brooklyn Bridge, rinsing off
the day’s labors in streams warm

and patient, rainlike now. The bends
after the posture assumed by the afflicted
as nitrogen crept up the spine’s steps.

There are still things that cannot be imagined.
The indifferent light on the surface of
the water. The wounding breath of air.