Rachael Swiss

Nocturnal Omissions - Poem by Rachael Swiss

Two divers scantily clad swim off the coast of Tahiti
Searching for their precious pearls
An irritating grain of sand trapped in a shell
Who could not but open his mouth to meekly complain
And with his tolerance the gem is solidified as proof
Of his existence
Of his patience
Of his endurance
And then it is calmly snatched away by two
Beautifully bronzed and lithe swimmers
All limbs and reaching outstretched fingertips
For the beauty that it brings
While the melancholy oyster suffers all for naught.
He has no eyes to behold such a paragon.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,
Be he mollusk or mermaid or venture capitalist.

And we ebb and we flow with the tides and the cycles
Of the moon in our orbit
And the gravity which led you to me
Will surely drag you away again
To an unknown polar opposite
And I will not remember your name.
And I will not know her name either.

I feel bad for that sad creature with not a medal on his chest
No purple heart for bravery
No awards in congratulations for his struggling art
A dying and imperfect art
And nobody will ever know the name of the creator.

But men and women will swim alike
They’ll lie on steamy beaches under the shade of palm trees
And listen calmly as the waves go by
Possibly hold hands while they sit on the sand and wait
Until the moment is right.

And the men and the women will jump up at once
When the tide is low, and the moon is high
They will scamper along the shore
Searching for bubbles and the subsequent last breaths
For a pearl. Maybe two. Something precious and beautiful
And brought about by the death of another.
How rare it is that a gilded corpse be uncovered
Like Tutankhamen in his tomb
I’m sure he had lovers as well, even being a young king
They always do.

But men and women who go diving late at night
For these treasures buried in the ocean floor
They get lost sometimes.
The ebb takes the man away toward distant shores
The flow sends the woman miles out to a black sea
Both in search of something
Possibly different, and definitely alone in their quest.

Clasp your hands together and intertwine your legs
And then dive in synchronized harmony
Fight the current together
For what beauty is a pearl without a graceful neck to rest upon
And a graceful neck without a lover to deem it so

Conversations expand and contract like the waves
On a good day I feel an urge to plunge downward
But I fear that when I come back up to breathe
I will not see your face or recognize you
And it will be like we never met
I’ll hold calcium in my hand and ponder why
What had I intended for this bauble

On the bad days I feel as though I’m trapped underwater
With nothing to say but a murmur of please
On the bad days perhaps it is you who are drowning
Testing the depths of the oceans
The recesses, the trenches, where the tuna run
And I think you might choose to go with them one day
While I struggle like a dolphin caught in a net.

Beautiful mermen and maids with fish-scale tails
And tales of how they couldn’t keep their lovers
Eyes on the prize boys, eyes on the prize.
She’s a pretty little pink one, a hatchling from a sea monster
But interest fades long before beauty can decompose.

There will always be more fish in the sea
But I do not think they know the secrets
Interlocking limbs and mingled ambitions
Two sets of hands holding a tiny pearl
Intended to be Polaris, thought to be a compass
Leveling out at some sort of common ground
Of self-preservation
Proof of existence, patience, and endurance
Of hidden treasures in another eagerly sought
Proof of happiness.
Proof of life.

And the death of a poor and unfortunate oyster.

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Langston Hughes


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Poem Submitted: Saturday, October 6, 2007

Poem Edited: Wednesday, April 13, 2011

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