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
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?
The New Criterion October 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Brad Leithauser
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission