Adrienne Rich: Diving Into the Wreck

(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Biologically, the default body-plan, including humans, is “female,” without which there could be neither males nor females (I consider “selfers,” aka xerox-ers, as inherently female).  And yet, sex obtains, a lot, to the point of hermaphroditism.  Why even have males?  Why halve reproductive success with a male partner?  Halve-sies?  You better have a good mother flipping reason to go “halve-sies,” because “half” is a large cut in pay.  Selfers take the entire reproductive pot.  “Why is there sex?” is a difficult question almost like “why is there air?”  To pump up volley balls! Except “to pump up volley balls” is an evasive, smart-ass response.  The problem of sex is deadly serious, perhaps not unrelated to our problems of empire.

Some say that sex evolved in order to stay one step ahead of the parasites; change the locks on the immune system every generation, and therein lays the value of going halve-sies. That sounds “just so,” but whatever the explanation, the sexes began specializing.  We are all steeped and infused in piping hot myth.

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.


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 away 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.


  1. I’ve been offline much due to a computer virus/worm that destroyed my laptop.  Assholes.  Muller’s ratchet is breaking down my degrees of freedom.  

  2. and Adrienne Rich may have been among them. I really don’t know enough about her. She was a sort of “neighbor” of mine, lived not too far.  The similarities between art and science are greater than the differences, insofar as they both utterly rely on the “what if” scenarios, the human capacity for hypotheticals, to generate new ideas.

    Anyway, RIP, and all that.

  3. if the world were all female.  It has just happened that  males and females have split their duties.

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