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.
Otherwise
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
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.

This poem is one of Adrienne Rich’s most famous works. This particular poem was written in the early 1970s during a period where women struggles for their rights, the Vietnam war was in full-swing and the Civil Rights Movement had finally shown its effects. With all of these different social changes happening, it is clear that Rich has many topics to discuss. The title of the poem describes the entire poem itself. In the poem, we are introduced to a diver who is putting on his gear and is preparing to dive into the ocean in order to search for the wreck that is hidden underneath the massive plane of water. Rich uses an abundant amount of detail and imagry when she describes the scuba diver walking down the ladder and finally entering the ocean. We discover that the wreck was caused by a ship accident. This information is not enough for the scuba diver who craves to discover move about the accident. As they explore the wreck they gain more evidence. Rich uses a lot of details, which allows readers to almost feel as though they are in the ocean searching the wreck. The last stanza brings the entire poem together. Rich states, “We are, I am, you are.” This line brings everyone in this experience together. After reading this line everyone feels as though they were the ones in the wreck.

Simon Correia

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