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
Copyright © 2013 by Charles Harper Webb
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission