Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Sunday, September 1, 2013


by Herb Guggenheim

I stand at the edge of a floating wooden platform
& step onto the top rung of a ladder
that plunges straight down into the ocean.

They've told me it’s easy—
that even an 8-yr-old can do it.
But I'm not exactly convinced.
After all, stuff happens. Bad stuff.

The helmet they place over my head weighs 75 lbs.
"But you won’t feel it," they’ve assured me,
"once you get below the surface."

I listen to the echo of my breathing & realize
that the air they're piping in through a flimsy yellow tube
is probably the only thing between me & death.

When I reach the sea floor,
I'm down a mere 20 ft.
Still, that’s not bad for someone like me
who can barely operate his own DVR.

The water is clear & blue at once.
Schools of fish swim by—
tiger fish with black & orange stripes,
pale translucent fish, fish of blue & silver.

I spend the next 30 min. on a trail
that takes me past sunken helicopters, rock formations,
sea anemones, & living coral,

Scuba divers watch me & the others in my group,
making sure that everyone is safe.

One diver holds up a sea urchin,
places it in my palm
then returns it to the ocean floor.

Another hands me a fistful of ground up…something.
At the smell of it, a cloud of fish envelopes me,
eating from my open hand,
their tiny teeth scraping my palm.
In seconds, the food is gone.

Eventually, the scuba divers signal
that it's time to return to the surface.
I ascend the ladder.

At the top, someone lifts the helmet off my head.
I've made it.
The adventure has come to an end.
Everything else I'm afraid of lies ahead.

1 comment:

  1. This has enormous charm. The underwater experience is magical, and remains in the reader's mind as in the speaker's, though it is presented without a grain of romanticism. Nice work!!