This selection, chosen by guest editor Samantha Duncan, is from She Has Dreamt Again of Water by Stephanie Niu, released by Diode Editions in 2022.
Diver Walks into the Sea and Stays
ZONE I: INTERTIDAL
Before I go, I learn to clear my ears. Remove water from my mask while under, control my breath until my lungs become a kind of swim bladder. Even then— I am unwieldy. Unnatural. I am clunky machinery strapped to a barrel of air and plastic finned feet. I am a lemming stepping into nothing. I walk the plank freely. Once under, I can breathe. Here, everything is slowed, a miracle, even wisps of ink suspended. Everything is worthy of devotion. I see how quietly the world goes about its business without me. The purple stars, the glow of shark embryos resting on the kelp forest floor. I want something impossible: to hear a secret no human has been told.
ZONE II: PELAGIC
Let me introduce you: here is the music of a moving eel. Many strange teeth. Ink suspended in the sea. Everywhere, green— the color of permission. We swim sinless, arms and hearts indistinguishable. We cannot see or even imagine the bottom from this distance.
ZONE III: BENTHIC
I lack jaws. I lure with light. My clear face is one big eye. In heavy cold, my shape is wise. I need nothing. I survive.
Stephanie Niu is a poet and author of She Has Dreamt Again of Water, winner of the 2021 Diode Chapbook Prize. She received her degrees in symbolic systems and computer science from Stanford University. Her poems have appeared in Southeast Review, Poets Readings the News, Breakwater Review, and Storm Cellar, as well as scientific collaborations including the 11th Annual St. Louis River Summit. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Study/Research Award for work on decolonizing historical narratives through digital techniques, including podcast production, map-making, and digital visualization. She currently lives on Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.
Samantha Duncan is the author of four poetry chapbooks, including Playing One on TV (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2018) and The Birth Creatures (Agape Editions, 2016), and her work has appeared in BOAAT, SWWIM, Meridian, and The Pinch. She lives in Houston.