joanna newsom – divers (2015)

The diver is my love
And I am his, if I am not deceived
Who takes one breath above for every hour below the sea

Who gave to me a jewel
Worth twice this woman’s life, though it cost her less
Than laying at low tide to see her true love phosphoresce

And in an infinite regress
Tell me why is the pain of birth
Lighter borne than the pain of death?
I can’t claim that I loved you first
But I loved you best

I know we must abide
Each by the rules that bind us here:
The divers and the sailors and the women on the pier

And how do you choose your form?
How do you choose your name? How do you choose your life?
How do you choose the time you must exhale and kick and rise?

And in an infinite capsize
Like a boat tearing down the coast
Double hulls bearing double masts
I don’t know if you loved me most
But you loved me last

Recall the word you gave
To count your way across the depths of this arid world
Where you will yoke the waves that lay a bed of shining pearls

I dream it every night
The ringing of the pail, the motes of sand dislodged, the shucking, quick and bright
The twinned and cast off shells reveal a single heart of white

And in an infinite backslide
Ancient boulders sink past the west
Like a sword at the bearer’s fall
I can’t claim that I knew you best
But did you know me at all?

A woman is alive, a woman is alive
You do not take her for a siren
An anchor on a stone, alone, unfaceted and fine

And never will I wed
I’ll hunt the pearl of death to the bottom of my life
And ever hold my breath ’til I may be the diver’s wife

See how the infinite divides
And the divers are not to blame
For the rift spanning distant shores
You don’t know my name
But I know yours

__
Thank you Gareth for seeing and helping connect the dots.

adrienne rich – diving into the wreck

adrienne richFirst 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.
Otherwise
it is 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
and besides
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 Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972. W. W. Norton & Company, 2013