4:4: “Why I Learned to Cave Dive”, by Helena Bell

4:4: “Why I Learned to Cave Dive”, by Helena Bell

I dreamed of dragons,
sneaking out of cracks
to cast one-eyed glances

at passing divers.
I told myself they don’t care
for our taste, splintering bones,
or skin sweatering

their canines like sugar.

Instead they gorge on the blue
hearts of albino crawfish,
cast aside the soggy shells.

My parents say dragon

is a metaphor: the scratch
of teeth and claws are dying rasps,
a diver’s last breaths,

lost in black muck clouds.

Still there are dragons. They drop
crawfish in our paths, hearts
sucked dry till the white bodies gleam.
The way home is littered
with glowing carcasses, while ahead
black tails swish out our lights
in billowing silt. Daring us

to come closer.


Helena Bell lives in Carbondale, IL where she is working towards an MFA in poetry at SIU. Her work has appeared on Strong Verse, Strange Horizons, and her grandmother’s refrigerator. You can learn more about her at www.cuimhne.net.

This poem was inspired by a passage in Sheck Exley’s book Basic Cave Diving: Blueprint for Survival as well as personal cave diving experiences.



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