by Betsy Mars

Skimming along the bottom of the deep
blue sea, I swam speechless,
soft belly brushing against hard outcrops
as I searched for treasure:
twinkling copper tossed by lost souls,
shipwrecks unfolding their holds,
spilled plunder…
For the first time, I breathed without effort,
as weightless and sleek as I had dreamed
of being, in the world, benign.

Flashes of color as schools passed by
each morning, and then in the afternoons
I entered Poseidon’s kingdom —
like my hero, Jacques Cousteau —
I could scour the innards of the oceans for hours,
never coming up to smell the rank air
of the human world above.

My joyous eyes beheld the ever-moving
wavering waves of light that lay liquid
across my field of vision, no sound but my breathing,
as rhythmic and even as the tides.
My lungs – filled like my spirit – swelling with freedom:
Of lightness, at home in my body,
landless at last, unanchored.

A sudden menacing shadow moves overhead.
The flow of air falters. I can’t breathe.
Panic grips me.
Bursting from my solitary dreaming depths,
gasping at the pool’s edge,
I am cast back into the churning chaos
of my wounded childhood world.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My brother and I in the pool when I was no more than two years old. It must have been in Connecticut or Wisconsin in the summertime. I think you can sense my pleasure in the water, and his innate mischievousness. My parents told me that in winter, I would wear my lifesaver over my snowsuit to remind me of the water I loved so much…and still do love.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: While using the scuba gear in our backyard pool, I was lost in my watery reverie. Unbeknownst to me, my brother had entered the pool and turned off the oxygen on the tank, a typical prank. I was so engrossed in my fantasy, that for a moment, I forgot where I was and was overcome with fear. My brother frequently enjoyed awakening me from my illusions.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars is a Connecticut-born, mostly Southern California raised poet, mother, and animal lover with a severe case of travel fever. Having spent part of her childhood abroad, she has always had an interest in language and its nuances. In addition, she has always felt most at home in the water where her land-based clumsiness is not as apparent. Her work has been published in several anthologies and by Silver Birch Press.