04 July 2011

Tuesday poem: 'Second Person to Drown' by Emily White

Second Person to Drown

There is only one
Poem of the Sea about you.
It’s not exactly a Poem of the Sea
so much as it is a Poem in the Sea but
it’s still about you and anyway it goes like this:

You can’t feel its pull but you know that the
tide is taking you somewhere, and it doesn’t
matter. You are plankton. You are scattered
around in little pieces. You can breathe just fine
but all around you is the sound of drowning.

Little fishes tickle your face. It seems like
they are everywhere, and they mesh around your
body like a net. You curl into a crescent. You
feel the watery salt arms of the ocean encase you,
you touch your hair and it’s seaweed now; a
kelpy squelch against your wrinkled palm.

You think you know that you are not plankton,
but since you aren’t near the shore anymore,
you might yet be plankton, in little pieces,
rolling through water on your tummy,
your microscopic tummy –

riding an invisible tide, and
a wet claw that drags you
to the sea floor.

Emily White

This is one of the poems in the chapbook I helped make the weekend before last. There were lots of lovely poems, but this is one of the ones that struck me the most. I love how it starts - with a sort of prologue, with a bit of shuffling almost - a little bit of wry humour. I wonder who it is addressed to. And then begins the poem within the poem. It's beautiful and creepy and, I think, a very light sea-green. I particularly love 'You are plankton. You are scattered/around in little pieces.' The poem floats around, like the subject of the poem. The drowning person becomes part of the sea, remembers they don't belong in the sea, grow again into a sea creature. And then the poem ends with that 'wet claw', which I imagine to be enormous and black against the pale sea green.

Emily White is an honours student in English literature at Victoria University. I expect we'll see more of her poetry in the future.

And for more Tuesday poems, visit the Tuesday Poem hub: http://www.tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/


Emma said...

This is lovely. I also love the prologue and the way its shape goes in and out like the tide.

Helen Rickerby said...

Oh wow, it does too! I'd not noticed the shape before, but yes, it's like the tide, like a wave, like a beach.