Treasure Island

Erica Jong

(26 March 1942 / New York City)

In the Glass-Bottomed Boat


In the glass-bottomed boat
of our lives, we putter along
gazing at the other world
under the sea-
that world of flickering
yellow-tailed fish,
of deadly moray eels, of sea urchins
like black stars
that devastate great brains
of coral,
of fish the color
of blue neon,
& fish the color
of liquid silver
made by Indians
exterminated
centuries ago.

We pass, we pass,
always looking down.
The fish do not
look up at us,
as if they knew
somehow
their world
for the eternal one,
ours for
the merely time-bound.

The engine sputters.
Our guide-a sweet
black boy with skin
the color of molten chocolate-
asks us of the price of jeans
& karate classes
in the States.
Surfboards too
delight him-
& skateboards.
He wants to sail, sail, sail,
not putter
through the world.

& so do we,
so do we,
wishing for the freedom
of the fish
beneath the reef,
wishing for the crevices
of sunken ship
with its rusted eyeholes,
its great ribbed hull,
its rotted rudder,
its bright propeller
tarnishing beneath the sea.

'They sunk this ship
on purpose,'
says our guide-
which does not surprise
us,
knowing how life
always imitates
even the shabbiest
art.
Our brains forged
in shark & seawreck epics,
we fully expect to see
a wreck like this one,
made on purpose
for our eyes.

But the fish swim on,
intimating death,
intimating outer space,
& even the oceans
within the body
from which we come.

The fish are uninterested
in us.
What hubris to think
a shark concentrates
as much on us
as we on him!

The creatures of the reef
spell death, spell life,
spell eternity,
& still we putter on
in our leaky little boat,
halfway there,
halfway there.

Submitted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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