The Poets Online Archive - Diving
October 1999

I recall buying Adrienne Rich's collection Diving Into the Wreck during my college years simply because of the title. The idea of diving into the wreck of a life to salvage what you could, appealed to me then. Reading the poem "Homage to the Divers" by Stephen Dunn from New & Selected Poems recently, made me think poetically about diving again. Why not a love poem in a treasure ship? I like that in that poem some divers have "all the equipment" while others are just "holding their breath." This prompt involves the idea of diving - literally or figuratively - into water, air, some activity, for cover...

Black Rock

Every night the dive,
from the black rock
that the natives call Pu'u Keka'a.
Some divers are always there.
It is a job.
Entertainment for the tourists.
But I watch for the new ones,
the adventurers jumping
for the first time.
I watch their feet at the edge
of the cliff, the toes flexing,
curling in some vestigial reaction
of ancient claws, their inhalation, exhalation,
more pronounced than the others.
Their arms go up over their head
and they leave us.
I take a deep breath.
I feel the adrenaline rush
like the wind past my ears.
They do not tuck or flip.
Will not enter he waters fingertips first.
They simply fall, as I fell in childhood dreams,
as we were meant to be born,
feet pointing into the new world,
unable, unwilling to resist then,
completely submerging and waiting
till something seems to gently push us
towards the lighted surface
and we breathe that first breath
with them as we acknowledge the forces
that press down upon us and lift us
are one and the same.

Lianna Wright

Sponge Diving Blinded, venetian-style.
My eyes squint in fluorescent, non-sun flash,
ankles shackled to a wheeled seat, bottom heavy.
I am a bobbing, blinking, beige invasion.

Wishing I could dive deep into this eddy-gray desk:
The cat in the opposite window smiles at me

And my paper-filled, arid, salty office sea.

The cat sees me running full-paced,
With Jaime, Roberto or Luis
Spilling margarita on sandaled toes,
Plunging headfirst from rocky cliffs.

But I only see my wreck.
It is a towering, falling masterpiece,
an exercise in dried up goldfish
and Langston’s deferred dreams.

S.L. Milliken



Study the ground miles below
Shag green-and-brown heather
Hear the engines scream—less
Oxygen, higher pitched whine
Consider your plans to step out
To leap away from this plane
Through its foolishly open door
Stand there, mouth blown open
Silken jumpsuit wind-whipped
Don’t stop to think—dive.

Free fall, they call it, as if surrender
To Earth dragging you straight home
Along its invisible plumb line
As close to the heart of the planet
As the rocky skin of land permits
Could be anything but a reminder:
Surface is our only space.

Margaret Valentine


"Dive in, just write," we hear, and everyone does.
Pens hit the paper in a symphony of scratching,
heads lean into the dive, bodies curve downward.
Everyone is diving in, swimming furiously
on the current of imagination or memory,
grabbing quarters at the bottom, somersaulting,
turning themselves upside down, winning races.
But I am still out here, dipping my toes,
testing the water, immersing bit by bit.
Maybe this is writer's block:
this piece of paper, this little jail with blue bars.
Maybe I'm afraid that I'll dive too deep,
hit the bottom, or get stuck like Houdini,
and the magic won't work anymore.

Susan Kaye

Let's Dive Right In!

O, should we choose to swim in Cyberspace
- where only one and zero are the code -
and dive into that tangled Web with grace?

In that Net we'll find no friendly face
but just a trillion bits as mother-lode.
If we should choose to swim in Cyberspace,

we'd meet with competition in the race
-so many experts in that World Wide mode,
who dive into that tangled Web with grace,

and stretch their diving skills, and set the pace;
because the Internet is their abode.
O, do we dare to swim that Cyberspace

and leave a wake of learning, and a trace
of wisdom for the swimmers whom we showed
how to dive among that Web with grace?

Yes! Let us dive into this pool and brace
ourselves unto its strangeness - to the cold -
and dive among that tangled Web with grace
As we dare to swim in Cyberspace!

Catherine LeGault

Diving in the Wreck of the Hesperides
October 1997 - off North Carolina

Coal-fired steam freighter
sunk October 1897
in thirty-five feet of cloudy water
near the shoals.
She sits on her keel
with upright bow,
her anchor attached and unused.

Sheepshead swim in the boilers,
African pompano, a nurse shark
making its rounds, the loggerhead
turtle eyes us as we touch her sides,
spadefish turn together
in our lights.

We swim here against a current
that warns us away.
I can not help but think of everything
wrecked and how the corrosion grows
upon it , becoming a part of it,
becoming it.

A finger points at the time,
points at the surface.
I can hear myself whisper
as I kick myself from the wreckage
towards the light.

Charles Michaels


on submerging:

it wasn't so much that i was diving,
but plunging into a neverending
airless colorless depth
a well,
a cool splash of water
on my fevered mind
in order to still this fire of thought..
but it wasn't enough to even dampen it
it only brought more fuel...

Brandi Semler


Deep Sleep

I dive deep into briny sleep,
a semblance of the salty sea
I swam in before I was washed
onto the shore of life. There, where
time marches on without chronology
things not yet experienced
are forgotten
and things already in existence
can be created.
Submerged, I explore wrecks
lying long-forgotten on the bottom,
now crusted over with a calcified patina.
Just ghost forms of the originals,
they lie oddly juxtaposed
with phylum-less creatures that swim in
and out of hulls and bulkheads.
Their jewel bodies flash past
in the murkiness, and I strain my eyes
in vain to see them again.
Their movements defy Newton's laws;
their forms negate Darwin's theory,
these depths are governed by their own rules.
I hold my breath and buy into the chaotic
order of the place. I'm only passing through,
after all, and will resurface at length.

Gretchen Fletcher


A beginning, an end, a beginning, an end
curving at right angles one degree or even less
at a time. The planes may be shifting - notice!

A newborn works its way onto earth, diving, you can see it!
Gasps for air like an olympic diver hits the water
from the high-diving board - jump, flip, and smack
a silent cry for a split second,
then perhaps a loud cry
sheer energy to convert those little
gill-like lungs into two amazing machines.

Crawling - a step two diving course for the newborn
a sit up, a little twist, roll, and that double knee
action against the flooring with a combined double wrist
and palm-of-the -hand push. Floor to floor we go.

Walking-diving into step three
the push becomes a little stronger,
while the knee against the flooring gives way
to ten little charming toes and the soles
of pitter-pattery feet. Hear it-shuffle, shuffle, step,
and stop, repeat, a one, two, three, four.

A run here, a bicycle ride there,
slinky, slinky, slinky. From one dive
to another. And at what some may call the end
some will just plain old dive-
that's it - dive. Diving is diving.
It's all the same. It just may be that our peripheral vision
on our way around the planes gets caught
when we do our spiral, double helix,
and the cheery roar of the crowds is so overwhelmingly exciting,
we look away
for that split second,
that splint second,
the fun of the game.

Jane Conforti

Taking the Plunge

i was always afraid of the water
even as a small boy i would sit by
the edge of the shallow creek while the other kids splashed about and
played "waterball"
to me it was a deep and foreboding
river hiding unseen creatures that
waited only for my toes to sink into the muddy depths before springing
to life
but then there was Mary the little girl in the third grade right in
front of me rolling up her britches
to her knees giggling like little school girls often do
there she stood ; the center of my universe my whole world with the
swirling around her feet reaching out for my hand;
with my heart pounding in my ears
i took the plunge
and time stood still for a moment; then forever
as we swam together off some moonlit beach
was it florida? or california? dear; let's ask the children

Ray Cutshaw

eyes -- wide open
we hold our breath
insert the disk
connect to an ISP
dive into cyberspace

sea fans undulate
with messages from friends
pulsing sea anemones
suck us in to buy
multi-colored parrot fish
and zebras -- yellow striped
entertain with clever animation

bottom feeders
we explore every crag and crevice
come up for air from time to time
dive in again for more

Cherise Wyneken