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Karen, Lost


When, as our line of divers squeezed
            and twisted through the Catalina kelp,
I glanced back and my new wife was gone,
            I gasped as if a Great White
had sliced into me. On every side, green-

            gold fronds shuddered, tall as trees.
Screams die in water, so I bonged my steel
            tank with my knife. Our teacher
finned my way. "Karen's lost!"
            I tried to say in signs, picturing

her eyes as kelp wrapped her, and air
            ran out. My own lungs ached
as Teacher vanished in the fronds,
            then reappeared—in hours,
or instants?—Karen lagging behind.

            As a child, captivated by some squirrel
or toy Santa banging a drum, she drifted
            away from her mom. I waited alone
at the altar, "Here Comes the Bride"
            repeating as she floundered, lost,

through St. Matthew's dark halls.
            Now, belly swollen, breasts too
tender to touch, she's lost again. Will we
            ever find our way back to bass
nibbling from our hands, Garibaldis

            flashing orange, joy lighting twin
bonfires in her eyes? Will she become
            my son's mother, and nothing more?
Will labor drown her, as it has so many
            wives? No use to plead, "Hold

my hand tight." When her mom tied
            a rope to her waist, she slipped
the knot and strolled away. Karen,
            I'll look for you, I swear. I'll bang
on my tank night and day. I'll personally comb

            all Seven Seas, holding in mind your eyes
under the ocean: blissful to be there.
            I'll clasp your hands when you push
through the fronds of childbirth
            and swim with you into the sparkling air.


Charles Harper Webb

What Things Are Made Of
University of Pittsburgh Press


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