Buddies

I’ve never been a poet. All effort at poetry in school simply got eye rolls from my teachers. But apparently the sport of scubadiving inspired me one evening along about 1980. Jim and I were diving together in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, but were still thirteen years from cohabitation and marriage–untethered. Recently, I found my effort in an old folder, written in pencil on yellow, lined paper. It isn’t horrible and it does bring back memories, so I figured I’d memorialize it online. I resisted the temptation to revise.

Abandoning the sunlit familiarity of the boat
the two glance at each other
and fall backward into the turbid water.

The shock of the cold anxious seconds of uncertainty
sinking slowly at first then faster
they cling to their systematic world:
first ears and watch,
then depth gauge, pressure gauge,
ears watch depth gauge pressure gauge
but they always forget the compass.

They are self-contained,
hearing nothing but their own breathing,
in rhythm with the slow kicking.

They are untethered–
to do otherwise would invite entanglements–
but they are joined by their glances, their signals, their anticipation.

The vision of a ship slowly emerges.

A ghost ship preserved by the cold
but covered with soft silt that billows to the touch
threatening to further cloud the obscurity.
Broken planking and uprights,
ancient fixtures take shape and quickly fade.

Time is too short to linger and make sense of it all
Stopping also allows the chill to penetrate their fragile protective garments.

Vision blurs into vision
but the whole eludes comprehension.
The depths are seductive and disorienting
confusing land animals who need to reconnoiter.

Is the ship an historical marker,
a minor archeological site,
to be researched, analyzed, and plotted on graph paper?
Or did it grow there with the kelp
evolving with the shadowy waterscape
changing shape for each team of divers?

With time running short
the divers move faster and closer to each other.
They begin to check each other’s gauges
and send unspoken messages.
Reluctantly, they ascend, loathe to leave the murky womb.

Finally, they break into the harsh sunlight
and are pulled on board.
As they strip off their underwater gear
a few syllables are exchanged with their boatmates
–happy, meaningless.

But the real communication occurs between the buddies–
quiet glances filled with delight
and the memory of the shared vision.

Photo by Jim Zimmer, 1982. A different pair of buddies: Shafer and Lesard, at Sherkston Quarry

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