Diving into the Wreck
First having read the book of myths, and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade, I put on the body-armor of black rubber the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner but here alone.
There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner. We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it's a piece of maritime floss some sundry equipment.
I go down.
Rung after rung and still the oxygen immerses me the blue light
the clear atoms of our human air. I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean will begin.
First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then black I am blacking out and yet my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force in the deep element.
And now: it is easy to forget what I came for
among so many who have always lived here
swaying their crenellated fans between the reefs
you breathe differently down here. I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes. The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp slowly along the flank
of something more permanent than fish or weed
the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion among the tentative haunters. This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair streams black, the merman in his armored body We circle silently
about the wreck
We dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he
whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments that once held to a course
the water-eaten log the fouled compass We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage the one who find our way back to this scene carrying a knife, a camera a book of myths
in which our names do not appear.
From Twenty-One Love Poems
Wherever in this city, screens flicker
with pornography, with science-fiction vampires, victimized hirelings bending to the lash,
we also have to walk . . . if simply as we walk through the rainsoaked garbage, the tabloid cruelties of our own neighborhoods.
We need to grasp our lives inseperable
from those rancid dreams, that blurt of metal, those disgraces, and the red begonia perilously flashing
from a tenement sill six stories high,
or the long-legged young girls playing ball in the junior highschool playground.
No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees, sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air, dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,
our animal passion rooted in the city.
I wake up in your bed. I know I have been dreaming. Much earlier, the alarm broke us from each other,
you've been at your desk for hours. I know what I dreamed: our friend the poet comes into my room
where I've been writing for days,
drafts, carbons, poems are scattered everywhere, and I want to show her one poem
which is the poem of my life. But I hesitate, and wake. You've kissed my hair
to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,
I say, a poem I wanted to show someone . . . and I laugh and fall dreaming again
of the desire to show you to everyone I love, to move openly together
in the pull of gravity, which is not simple,
which carried the feathered grass a long way down the upbreathing air.
Since we're not young, weeks have to do time
for years of missing each other. Yet only this odd warp in time tells me we're not young.
Did I ever walk the morning streets at twenty, my limbs streaming with a purer joy?
did I lean from any window over the city listening for the future
as I listened here with nerves tuned for your ring? And you, you move toward me with the same tempo.
Your eyes are everlasting, the green spark of the blue-eyed grass of early summer,
the green-blue wild cress washed by the spring. At twenty, yes: we thought we'd live forever.
At forty-five, I want to know even our limits.
I touch you knowing we weren't born tomorrow, and somehow, each of us will help the other live, and somewhere, each of us must help the other die.erif"'>our animal passion rooted in the city.