Sunday, January 10, 2021

Poem: Open Water

Last year, my dad gave me the Christmas gift of a SCUBA certification. That’s right! I am officially Open Water certified, meaning I can go diving down to 60 feet deep and am familiar with many of the different ways the water and diving can kill you. Honestly, though, it’s about as dangerous as driving a car (not real statistics) but with fewer people, beautiful and strange fish, and stunning seascapes.

Yes, I’m a little disappointed that I don’t live in Hawai’i anymore, but now, if I ever find myself in the vicinity of Australia, I am qualified to dive the Great Barrier Reef. That and diving is the closest humans can get to experience weightlessness on planet Earth.

My next goal is to get my Advanced Open Water certificate. I’d also love to get involved with Project AWARE, a nonprofit organization that helps remove debris from the ocean.

The following poem is based on my last check out dive for my certification.


Open Water

I’m descending toward the sandy floor
like a leaf gradually twirling without wind
or a dust particle drifting past my window,
and I ask myself why I didn’t do this before.

When I first plunged my face beneath the surface in the pool,
I felt my breath catch—
people aren’t meant to breathe underwater.
But still, I remind myself to take a deep breath—
in and out—
like the way I prevent a panic attack.
All I have to do now is breathe, always breathe.

Now I reach the end of the line,
the minute anchor bobbing up and down with the waves—
I’m not even holding on, not this time,
which is good because I already have a rash
from where I tried to steady myself with my legs.

Another pound of pressure reminds me to exhale
through my nose,1 and a plethora of bubbles roars in my ears,
I’d almost forgotten what they sounded like—
if I stay here long enough, I’ve already begun to tune them out.

Before I quite reach the sand, I add air to my BCD2
and hang
like a satellite that doesn’t quite belong.
Yet I am here for a time, as an observer
to swim like the barracuda, glide like the ray,
relax like the puffer fish, and when I’m done,
I’ll hide between the pages of my book,
like the octopus and their shell-shaped door.3




1 Equalization. Removing air pressure on one’s ears to prevent their eardrums from bursting. Fun fact: it’s easier for women to equalize than it is for men.

2 BCD: Buoyancy Compensator Device. Basically, a really fancy name for an inflatable vest that divers strap their air cylinder to. When fully inflated, it also helps you float on the surface and can be partially inflated underwater to achieve a sense of weightlessness (neutral buoyancy).

3 I almost didn’t see the octopus until my dive instructor pointed it out because it was hiding in a cave-like structure and using a large shell as a sort of door. My theory is that the octopus was using it as a form of protection. See the Netflix documentary: My Teacher the Octopus.


Let’s chat! What is one of the most amazing things you’ve done? Do you prefer freshwater or saltwater? Any other SCUBA divers?


Similar poems: Sandcastles, Waking Up, and Riptide


  1. Beautiful! I wish I was brave enough to get diving instructions, but I'm terrified of what's in the water. I like watching it from a distant and love aquariums. I hope you get to use your gift soon!

    1. Thanks! Have you ever been snorkeling? It's not the same as diving, but it's still a great experience. Aquariums are so much fun too! It gives me the opportunity to sketch, which is not exactly something you can do while diving.

  2. No. I've messed around with snorkeling gear in a pool, but nothing serious.