There must be people, if
there are still people, who
somewhere yet above us

(where there are even birds)
breathe, swim, and survive
at their bright apogee

while we, under pressure
gasp weigh on each other,
and collapse face to face.

Even this sea-level smog
would seem like graced light
to signalmen tapping out code

from a locked hull, sounding
their own slow taps from the coast’s
dark beer-can floor.

Trying to face them, we stretch
to imagine release, fail
to imagine ourselves, and try

to decompress with another
iced drink: the lawnspray squeaks,
and traffic begins to thunder

as if it were Sunday somewhere.
But we have been sunk for months,
under tons of possible air.

This Issue

November 28, 1963