Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
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.
- So far, things are moving pretty slowly. This is a poem about diving, and it took us a third of the poem to even get near the water.
- In any case, things get going here.
- The entry into the water is a rush for the speaker, and for us.
- The light fades away as the speaker goes deeper, and that changes the color of the water.
- It goes from blue to even bluer to green to black.
- All of a sudden the speaker says "I am blacking out" (36), and we can almost feel the panic and the pressure and the choking feeling.
- And then, just as quickly, things seem to be okay again. The mask fills the speaker's lungs, and everything clears up.
- But even once that first panic is gone, the speaker still has to deal with the ocean.
- She has to adapt to a new world, and figure out a new way of moving: "I have to learn alone/ to turn my body without force/ in the deep element" (41-43).
- This is all about the scary, difficult process of transforming, of moving from one way of being to another.
- Did you catch how the speaker brought up being alone for the third time? Do you feel like Rich might be overdoing it a little with the loneliness stuff? That's just Rich's way of letting you know that it's a major theme in this poem.
And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
you breathe differently down here.
- All of a sudden, things have changed, and the speaker begins to feel at home.
- (By the way, do you see how important those section breaks between stanzas are? Each one marks a big shift in the poem, a step forward in this gradual change.)
- After this section break the speaker almost goes too far, and begins to get lost in the underwater world.
- She is surrounded by the creatures of the sea, "who have always lived here" (46-47).
- We are told that there is a reef, and that the creatures have "crenellated fans" (48). That's sort of a mysterious image.
- ("Crenellated" means that a thing has notches, little gaps along its edge. You know how the top of a castle wall has little openings in it, so it looks like it has teeth? Same idea here.)
- Those "fans" could be the waving top of a fish's fin, or maybe a piece of seaweed that's shaped like a fan.
- Either way, we start to get an image of a rich, beautiful world under the water.
- It's enough to make our speaker almost "forget what I came for" (44-5).
- Everything is different down here, even the most basic things have changed: "you breathe differently down here" (51).