“Diving” by Marie-Elizabeth Mali

Marie-Elizabeth Mali


Up on the bridge roof—a pinprick
on a floating speck
of wood and sail—
the scale is comforting,
not frightening.
A fine way
to disappear.

The man says, Hey gorgeous,
and I get wet.

On a dive, I shoot a pair of green
ornate ghost pipefishes
until I run out of air, my last
inhale a shock
like sucking on a corked hose.
I have to breathe
off his tank to survive.

In a grind of sharks I shoot,
one scarred pregnant female.
Shark sex is rough.
It leads to multiple wounds,
few offspring.

We ride in a skiff across the equator,
magenta-gold light
on the green-wrapped
islands we zip around.
I stand to shoot the scene
and almost fall
because of the chop.
The man holds my hips
to steady me. So he’ll keep
his hands there, I shoot
way past the point
of available light.

Before the next dive, he puts a Band-Aid
on a sore on my wrist.
It becomes a game, my sticking out
my arm, palm up,
before each dive.
I know where
they’re kept, could do it
myself, but I like
his care, his light
touch on my wrist.

I shoot a pair of broad-club cuttlefish.
The male puts his body
between me and the female
who continues to lay
eggs in a coral hollow
despite the strobes’ flash.

Four more days on the boat, lying awake
in a cabin three doors down
from his body.
At my station
on the starboard side,
I fiddle with my mask
and watch him gear up
at his port-side station:
Wetsuit, boots, BCD, tank,
do-rag, gloves, mask.
Extra-long fins under his arm
as he walks to the skiff.

One night we sit and chat on the bridge roof
When he gets up to refill my glass,
our feet brush,
sending a jolt of heat through me.
The rest of the chat
I hope our feet
will meet again.

The iron taste of his sun-cracked lips,
his adept tongue
and mind, arms
that lift and turn me
this way
and that, how
he washes my hair
and towels me dry.

from Rattle #67, Spring 2020
Students of Kim Addonizio


Marie-Elizabeth Mali: “I’ve studied with Kim Addonizio many times, in person and online, from 2007 to 2018. She’s helped my writing become more bold and more subtle, by sometimes suggesting that I say the thing more directly and at other times suggesting that I use an image or metaphor instead. And always with a well-tuned ear to the poem’s sounds. I love having a teacher with such range!” (web)

Rattle Logo