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The Skin Diver's Memory
Nancy Simpson

Beneath the Killing sea
that holds a wealth of secrets,
off the shore of Morehead City,
a German 352 U-boat
with its own rich secrets
is an island of plenty.
The German U-boat
is a living reef,
a plentiful island, submersed.
I've been there. I've seen it,
a living reef where creatures
of the deep make a home.
I've been there. I've seen it,
a torpedo, its mouth crusted,
make a home of the deep
on this deserted battlefield.
I look into the crusted mouth
of a torpedo forgotten
on a deserted battlefield
known as a Torpedo Alley.
A torpedo, forgotten,
is the Heaven for Angelfish.
In Torpedo Alley one day
an angel swam out through the mouth,
out of the Heaven for Angelfish.
It brushed my cheek with its fin.
A fish swam out of a torpedo
and I understood then underwater
the chemistry of a U-boat, the slow
transfiguration from evil to good
off the shore of Morehead City
beneath the killing sea.
This poem first appeaerd in Prairie Schooner.
From Living Above the Frost Line: New and Selected Poems (Carolina Wren Press).
Used here with the author's permission.


Nancy Simpson (1938 - 2018) had deep roots in Georgia, though she was born and raised in Miami, Florida. In the ‘60s, she moved to Western North Carolina, where the mountains inspired her to begin writing poetry. Author of three poetry collections and writer-in-residence at the John Campbell Folk School for fifteen years, Nancy founded the Netwest branch of the North Carolina Writers Network and spent many years teaching writing in public schools and colleges.


Post New Comment:
Judy Roney:
Wonderful poem! It feels undersea and dreamy as I read this. I love the angelfish coming forth with beauty through something that was once so deadly.
Posted 08/05/2012 06:52 AM
I love this! Thanks, Nancy.A much more poetic version of "turning a defeat into a victory." I guess my comment shows why the English Department suggested I major in psychology.)
Posted 08/03/2012 10:26 AM
Nancy, this is complex and wonderful. A great form for this poem. Thank you for sharing with the wider world.
Posted 07/31/2012 06:33 PM
It has seen its way to perfection and come to the point of forgiveness.
Posted 07/31/2012 05:01 PM
Enjoyed this when I read it in your book and enjoyed it now too. Such a good use of the pantoum form. Such an interesting story too.
Posted 07/31/2012 04:30 PM
Nancy, one of yours I had not read. Oh so good - swinging with the movement of the sea, the lights, the life.
Posted 07/31/2012 02:58 PM
I love the hypnotic effect of the repeated lines. Poetecho. Good work!
Posted 07/31/2012 01:46 PM
Joan L. Cannon:
I very much admire the choice, so dreamlike, of this setting. Maybe someone who has never gone skin diving won't notice the wonderful approximation in the poem of the silence of diving and thinking...with only the noise of one's own breathing. An excellent poem, for me.
Posted 07/31/2012 12:13 PM
Nicely done!
Posted 07/31/2012 11:20 AM
Very nice!
Posted 07/31/2012 09:37 AM
Janet Leahy:
Beautiful use of the pantoum form to tell this story.
Posted 07/31/2012 07:08 AM

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