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American Life in Poetry: Night Dive

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By Ted Kooser

Peggy Shumaker lives in Alaska, but she gets around the world. Here she takes us with her on a ninety-foot dive into colorful mid-Pacific waters.

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Night Dive

Plankton rise toward the full moon

spread thin on Wakaya's surface.

Manta rays' great curls of jaw

scoop backward somersaults of ocean

in through painted caves of their mouths, out

through sliced gills. Red sea fans

pulse. The leopard shark

lounges on a smooth ramp of sand,

skin jeweled with small hangers-on.

Pyramid fish point the way to the surface.

Ninety feet down, blue ribbon eels cough,

their mouths neon cautions.

Ghost pipefish curl in the divemaster's palm.

Soft corals unfurl rainbow polyps, thousands

of mouths held open to night.

Currents' communion--giant clams

slam shut wavy jaws, send

shivers of water. Christmas tree worms

snap back, flat spirals tight,

living petroglyphs against the night.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 2010 by Peggy Shumaker. Reprinted by permission of Peggy Shumaker and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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