Scuba divers will sometimes drown
within a night sea
after confusing up and down.

It seems so basic—up/down—and yet,
immersed in a black neutral buoyancy,
the world’s boundaries all wet,

a person may mislay his only meaningful
compass—the heart in his head—
and mistake Earth’s centripetal pull

for that other mustering of gravity:
a firmament widespread
with stars, over a wind blowing free.


But the figure—the tiny figure floundering,
lost, in an unlit sea . . . He’s trapped
like a sleeper trapped in a raw, tightening

nightmare, who knows he knows a way out of here
though he keeps forgetting
the key.
             How do we wake? How do we clear

the borne mind of its body and arrive—
gasping, half gone, not gone—
on the surface’s groundless shore, not just alive

but secure in the moon’s artful netting,
whose catch tonight may be one of those rapt
souls that thinks to see another dawn?

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 31 Number 2, on page 31
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