I am glad you have posted this. I can confess now that I thought this was going to win. How it did not place higher I will never know. Anyway, I have been telling others about this poem all week and I am please to comment on this now:
Bubbles drift up, morphing
into ridiculous shapes.
The coral reef is deserted,
teeming with life minutes ago
now all disappeared.
A huge shadow crosses over me:
my boat, wind-drift on it's anchor line.
Thirteen meters above me
wavelets collide making
crazy quilt reflections of the clouds.
The imagery throughout this poem is perfect and creates the underwater world vivid.
The morphing bubbles of manufactured air rotating up is one of the many ways you do this; as are the fleeing fish as the diver intrudes and the shadow of the boat high above. This last example really puts this reader 30m down.
My bubbles drift up slow and fluidly,
this makes this reader know full well that the bubbles belong to the diver. This is important later on...
otherwise a desolate sea surrounds me.
Peacefully, the wreck looms above me,
popular exploration for local divers:
WWII PT boat, deceptively small.
this part makes it clear that there is no help if it were needed. It will be later, but the first reading of this I was unaware. This is great story telling Larry.
Even in dim light the colors stand out
blue and white and trimmed with red,
brightly painted before it was scuttled
for recreational diving.
clear image of the wreck. This also gives this reader an idea of how close you are to the wreck an how clear the sea is.
Bubbles wiggle like amoebae
escaping to the surface.
I am unsure how 'amoebae' move and will not check this out. Lol But I know amoebae are finger like single cell life forms and they would look like 'morphing' bubbles as they made their way up, up, up.
Life is returning to the reef.
Scared by the shifting PT boat,
the braver ones come out first -
feisty yellow, blue and red wrasses,
followed by black and white sergeant-majors.
Tube worms spread flower-like
feathery dusters to catch plankton.
Quiet observation rewards you with wonders.
The reef slowly returning to life is well described here. The PT boat shifting is significant, but slipped in amongst the colourful reef creatures. Nicely done.
These bubbles keep sliding to the surface,
free and unfettered.
My dive clock shows
that I have 20 minutes left
before I must ascend.
Giving a false sense of safety is a super misdirection just in case the reader is concerned. Excellent!
Meanwhile, traffic has overtaken
the reef like a holiday park.
Neon fish chase each other,
A green moray eel stares at me
from the safety of its burrow,
mouth open to uneven rows of teeth,
gills pumping water like bellows.
More fish descriptions to take the time reference away. The fear though dropped into the consciousness with the eel's stare.
Tiny minnows play in my bubbles
as they rise, flashing silver and dark.
Great image. I like the colour of the bubbles, the inclusion of the possession of that all important air.
An octopus slithers past,
perhaps seeking a tasty lobster
or just headed for shelter.
The eel darts out to grab
a peppermint shrimp,
startling the octopus
who leaves an ink blob
as it disappears.
nice piece of comedy here.
I can hear the moray
crunching on the shrimp.
I can also hear those bones splintering and almost feel them in my own mouth. Yuk!
Looking up I try to see
my bubbles break the surface.
No good, they get lost
in the kaleidoscopic waves.
the tone of the story telling changes here. More bubble referencing. This time just to tell the reader that they are still being released.
I try again to move,
but the PT Boat has me pinned
to the rocky bottom
just above my hips.
All the struggling I have done
has merely worn me out.
A herculean effort rewards me
only with bruises and scrapes.
The moment where our diver finds out they are stuck happens quickly. Maybe the PT boat could be seen sliding, a missed footing and them trapped would fill this gap? Still, the diver is stuck. Being stuck just above the hips is significant as there really is no hope. Only time for panic. Panic and struggle results in more air being used. Was it 20 minuets a while ago..?
My bubbles drift lazily upward,
carrying my hopes
and my soul to freedom.
I like this. Lazy bubbles makes me imagine air bubbles with minimal air in them. Like a deflating helium balloon. Hopes are gone and realisation has set in...
This shell will be empty soon enough.
Such a painful admission.
"Never dive alone,"
even with years of experience.
And never wreck-dive alone,
even though you're
a licensed dive-master. Fool!
It is all too often the person who should know better makes the worst mistakes. Like men who drive too fast because there self confidence makes them feel like they can deal with errors of others. The trouble is they don't imagine the error will be their making. I like the self chastising, after all there is no one else down there to do it! It is almost like the readers voice is echoed here?
I gaze at my bubbles,
are they diminishing?
First doubt and first thoughts of panic. Surely 20minutes have not elapsed?
Funny, my dive watch
gives me more than ten minutes.
Piece of crap,
I should replace it.
Could get me in trouble one day.
Another piece of evidence of complacency. "I'm too good to need a new watch" The self chastising gives an image of thee divers personality. Blaming the tool. What do they say? A good workmen never blames his tool.
Even with death looming he still thinks (the reader does not, surely?) he will get out of this situation...
Glazed eyes are still able to realize
the bubbles have stopped.
There is more food
for life on the reef.
the glazed eyes bring home well the lack of oxygen and near loss of consciousness. The last two lines a subtle, but all too correct statement that with the divers death the nutrients from the body will nourish the reef for a while.
I like the imagery throughout and the claustrophobic feel of death at the end. The important message is to never take safety for granted and make sure the rules are obeyed.
Well done Larry,
I love this poem and it will be going into my favourites.
Thanks for this detailed analysis, Michael;
it's great feedback.
I tried to get across the scenario that when the poem started the diver was already trapped and had been struggling to get free, but was now exhausted.
That was why the fish were scared, from the motion of the boat trapping the diver and his struggle to get free.
I put the shadow in for two reasons: an ominous forboding, as if it were a shark that had scared the fish, and also a misdirection so that you would not see it was the boat trapping the diver that scared them.
As for his ironic statement about the defective dive watch: that's purely me. In the tightest moments I am usually a smart-ass.