Surface

by Michael Heyman

“Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.”

            –Oscar Wilde

Today I’m going to dive into the deepest sea

Wearing my orange floaties.

Don’t worry.

I’ll bob back up

a wave’s whim,

staying on the surface

 another glint of sun

   another scudding froth.

Down below,

  fathoms from the light

   The cold juts jaws,

Darkness bleaches meat and bone,

Creatures telegraph lost luminescent tongues.

Stares the huge, unblinking eye

  or the fleshy blank, where one may have been.

None of that for me—

I don’t need the unmentionable thumblings under me.

My eyes will keep their distance, will not,

  pressed between a mile’s water-weight

  and the rocky floor, like a flounder’s, migrate.

I’ll stay here on the surface

  blowing bubbles in sunfish streaks

Or skimming along,

  limbs spread wide.

There is enough surface tension

   to keep afloat forever.


Michael Heyman is a scholar and writer of literary nonsense, poetry, and children’s literature. He teaches arthropodiatry and other literary and performative arts at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He once played badminton with The Tenth Rasa: An Anthology of Indian Nonsense. His poems and stories for children and adults can be found in the journals Poetry International, Solstice, and FUSION; and in the books The Puffin Book of Bedtime Stories, The Moustache Maharishi and other unlikely stories, and This Book Makes No Sense: Nonsense Poems and Worse.

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