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Picture 10273738, photograph, circa 1930s, by H Armstrong Roberts, image copyright Mary Evans / Classic Stock

The Bends
by Matt Barnard

 

And let this be a lesson, frogmen,

to those who return too fast from a foreign element, the punishment

is terrible. Terrible for those like Icarus

 

who believe they’ve mastered the other place

with feathers glued to bamboo shoots, or prosthetic webbing.

 

Sojourners, be humble

as the earthworm is humble.

 

He embraces the earth, lets it pass through him, he burrows, he eats

123456his element,

blind, deaf, mute. He knows the vengeance of birds, their iron beaks.

So when you rise in a cacophony of bubbles

 

through the ocean’s unmeasured mass,

come back slowly. Listen

 

to your breathing.

Think of the half-opened door of the moon, how it let slip

men into its bare pantry.

 

Of the tips of mountains and their time-lock on life,

and be thankful for yours.

 

 

© Matt Barnard

Picture 10273738, photograph, circa 1930s, by H Armstrong Roberts, image copyright Mary Evans / Classic Stock

 

 

Matt Barnard is a poet and writer. His collection, Anatomy of a Whale, was published in 2018 by The Onslaught Press, and he has won the Poetry Society’s Hamish Canham Prize and the Ink Tears national short story competition. He also edited the anthology Poems for the NHS, published by the Onslaught Press. His website is www.mattbarnardwriter.com

 

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