Sylvia Saves Me From Drowning

There I was, crying in the laundromat. We had a washer/dryer combination shoved in a nook of our tiny bathroom, but I had to leave. We’d fought about the movie The Big Blue. He thought it was absolutely stunning. I thought it hated women: the blond woman always screaming and crying, wanting something, her feathered hair a mess, and then there was this clean, quiet space where the men dove into the big blue water, away from all domestic fussiness, away from the noise. I was watching the soapy wheels of the washers, moving all that cloth around in messy grey spirals. Sylvia Earle appeared at that moment, laughing at how I could cry so much water while still doing laundry. She went down deeper in the ocean than anyone in history, but most people don’t know her name. (You know Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong because they went up into the holy white sky, clean and light as if you burn off sins as you speed towards the moon and sun, as if you purify in the brighter blue, closer to heaven. But she, like a woman, went into the earth’s depths, plunged into dark water, let it envelop her, untethered herself as she walked the ocean floor.) I recognized her from an article, so I smiled back when she smiled at me, and said, “Thank you for your service.” It seemed like the right thing to say, but it wasn’t. I kind of blubbered at her, spilled my story across the laundry room floor like tipping buckets. Wet her thoroughly, and felt my own puddles pulling down the ankles of my jeans. She told me I was right about the movie. There’s so much archetype getting in the way, the stereotypes choking us like weeds. She told me it was where sunlight fades and darkness begins to take over, like deepest twilight or earliest dawn, still enough light penetrates clear ocean water in the middle of the day when she made the big dive. That soft glow was the sky above. There was a flash, sparkle, and glow of creatures. Some corals grow like giant bed springs from the ocean floor, taller than people. Little rings of blue fire pulse all the way down them. At first they kept the submarine headlights on, but she made them turn them off so she could see the firefly light. So many large corals on the sea floor, all alive, some pink, some orange, some yellow, some black, like a flower garden. Red crabs hang on a great sea fan like shirts on the line, in a little bit of current, slowly moving. Eels wrap around the base, ethereal. By this time I was mesmerized, a mermaid, anesthetized to my former pain. The neon sign in the window was backwards, but reminded me of the blue pulsing lights. The puddles were gone, the grey swirled linoleum restored to dryness. My laundry folded. Sylvia told me, she was on the bottom of the ocean for two and a half hours. Buzz told her that was also the time they had to walk on the moon, two and a half hours, but what they did not have on the moon was this avalanche of life. Everywhere, little fish with lights down the side, the colorful corals, little burrows of creatures dwelling in sediments on the seafloor, water like minestrone except all the little bits keep us alive.

Ana C. H. Silva lives in NYC and Olive, NY. Her poetry is in Podium, Rogue Agent, The Mom Egg Review, the nth position, Snow Monkey, Chronogram, StepAway Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Between the Lines, and Shantih Journal. Ana created Olive Couplets, a community-based poetry event, and Lines in the Woods, an outdoor, interactive poetry installation at the CHHS in Rosendale, NY. Ana curates The Mom Egg Review Online Gallery. She won the inaugural Rachel Wetzsteon Memorial Poetry Prize at the 92nd St. Y Unterberg Poetry Center