Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Art of Drowning

I wonder how it all got started, this business
about seeing your life flash before your eyes
while you drown, as if panic, or the act of submergence,
could startle time into such compression, crushing
decades in the vice of your desperate, final seconds.

After falling off a steamship or being swept away
in a rush of floodwaters, wouldn't you hope
for a more leisurely review, an invisible hand
turning the pages of an album of photographs-
you up on a pony or blowing out candles in a conic hat.

How about a short animated film, a slide presentation?
Your life expressed in an essay, or in one model photograph?
Wouldn't any form be better than this sudden flash?
Your whole existence going off in your face
in an eyebrow-singeing explosion of biography-
nothing like the three large volumes you envisioned.

Survivors would have us believe in a brilliance
here, some bolt of truth forking across the water,
an ultimate Light before all the lights go out,
dawning on you with all its megalithic tonnage.
But if something does flash before your eyes
as you go under, it will probably be a fish,

a quick blur of curved silver darting away,
having nothing to do with your life or your death.
The tide will take you, or the lake will accept it all
as you sink toward the weedy disarray of the bottom,
leaving behind what you have already forgotten,
the surface, now overrun with the high travel of clouds.

Billy Collins

Marie suggested I read this poem and I like it quite a lot. My only experience even close to drowning was when I fell over a waterfall. The things I thought of as I was going down were
#1 Getting flipped around so that my feet would go in first
#2 That if I kept my body pulled in as tightly as I could in the center of the main flow of water, maybe erosion would have cleared a smooth path and dug a hole at the bottom.
Thankfully Erosion was on my side and I survived. I was a little annoyed when others who had seen me fall and survive decided to go over the waterfall recreationally.

Since I haven't died I can't be sure, but it seems that perhaps you are less likely to drown if you are actively assessing the current situation rather than reminiscing over good and bad deeds done in the past.

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