I Doubt You Have a Heart
after Louise Glück
Right off the shore of Bodrum
a calm sea captures my heart.
Scavengers sail up on us.
Beauty and science be damned!
They smell the knowledge in us
diving for ancient cargo.
They sell art to the bidders
coins and history itself.
Our sponge divers plunge deep down,
our expedition’s decoys.
Binoculars scan for us,
but we hide beneath the deck
ready to salvage the wreck.
It’s my time. Kemal whistles.
He throws over a buoy.
Bubbles billow up.
Water pressure presses
My fins finesse me down
Turtles, groupers float by
stare at my intrusion.
My old dream of diving
began in libraries
hunched over reports
feeling the horror
drowning men, the sunken ship
I am now approaching.
Kemal points out the wreck
and swims up for breath.
My diving partner taps his watch.
I nod and try to calm
my heart and my breaths.
Eighteen meters down
the shipwreck looms large
a silent refuge
for fish and yellow sea whip coral.
A slight current pushes me off the ship.
Encrusted coins, glass, intact amphorae
fill my mind, fill the mesh bag
I clip to a ready rope.
I tug on it twice. We leisurely ascend.
The warm Mediterranean sun caresses my face.
I hear the wavelets slapping against my mask.
Our exploration of the Gelidonya treasures
doubles our archeological pleasures.
At the Institute
we arrive in triumph to register our find.
“That site is already registered.”
“Impossible! We discovered the wreck yesterday!”
“The papers are all in order.
For dives there can’t be a surfeit.
Your permit, therefore, is forfeit.”
The pirates did stalk us,
jumped our claim.
But Kemal knows a way.
His diver buddies will take care of everything.
The recovered amphorae
the pirates tried to fence
fell into the hands of the police.
The ship they chartered will not start.
It seems the engine is contaminated with sand!
At the marina
“nobody knows nothin’ about nothin.’”
The pirates have been arrested
as has been the official they had bribed.
Our permit moves from forfeit to active
and we toast our luck with raki.
Next step—lay a grid and map the area
and catalogue everything we haul up.
We need photographers
land-based and PADI -certified.
I am proud to help protect
my homeland’s patrimony.
In Bodrum, I left my heart.
That dive, my testimony.
Ömer perks up.
I can be in Bodrum in May.
By chance, what is the pay?”
After her talk ends, Meltem
slumps her shoulders.
She shows Ömer the letter from her father:
“It’s stupid to study archaeology.
You’ll never find a good husband that way.
It doesn’t pay. Be practical.
And Erzurum, so far away from Bodrum.
Why did you even apply there?
You’re wasting your time in those savage winters.”
Meltem sounds off to Ömer.
“I can’t even read the rest to you. Here:
‘When the school year is done,
You shall return home,
find a proper occupation.
I cannot support your dead-end.’”
Ömer tries to be helpful:
“Would it make any difference
if I talk to your father?
I would like to see Bodrum anyway.
I’d photograph the wreck—
from the safety of the deck!”
“You do not know him, Ömer.
It’s no use. Words and logic are for naught.
If only he had a heart.
Besides, my mother has already chimed in:
Here’s her letter. It’s even worse.
‘I never could never pursue
my career as a classical pianist.
Your father said there would be no time
for six hours of daily practice
caring for three young children.
My fate shall not be yours.
You shall continue
your underwater life.’”
“What about me?
Pirates thwarted me.
Sponge divers saved my enterprise.
I’d like to be the one who removes the pebbles in my path.
Am I just a gentle wind from the south,
too small, too cute, too accommodating to resist?
And you, Ömer, I don’t want your help either.
I will speak to my father,
distance my mother.
I will weave my own fate,
resist the crushing depths,
ascend at my own pace,
and avoid the crippling bends
my family has brought upon me.
They say I’m too emotional,
in need of a clear head to think.
I can think and feel at the same time.
My diving will show them I’m smart–
To Bodrum, I’ll follow my heart.”
“Meltem, you are looking afar
resting on a shifting sandbar.
It seems you have left a door ajar
through which you can see your polestar:
Me, your friend. Is that so bizarre?”