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Chris Oke


A cork crumb in the wine dark sea,

I float between distractions:

Every ten meters feels like one martini.

You might not notice, you might only feel

last night’s rum. The straps of the mask

strangle the brain, those shards of light,

a pleasant sense of comfort and ease. Don’t let it

cloud your judgment. Keep an eye on your gauges

keep your eyes from dancing

on the broken mirror of the waves.

Remember, you’ll be using more air at these depths.

The wreck is 40 meters down. You don’t want to be

Caught staring. But hard not to, that white bikini top’s

tan-line suggestions, those neoprene-wrapped thighs…

Any deeper than that, you’ll be trouble. Don’t worry

about the sharks—harmless as puppies

A little over-excited. Panting. Nervous.

If I weren’t so hot and hungover, I’d

remember to never rise faster than your bubbles

and decompress before surfacing

get up and say hello. Tell her about loss and love.

But my mouth’s dead clam dry. And not a drop to drink.


Swimming is the second best excuse

but always easier to articulate.

Rationalizing it to each other and ourselves

one of those heavy summer evenings

when the skin lusts toward moisture;

the lake there, as it always has been, and never

will be again. Undressing with backs turned,

too young to feel beautiful, but old enough

to recognize it in others. Running

into the open arms of the waves.

The chiaroscuro of alcohol and moonlight—

Rembrandt himself would have dropped his brush.

I touched you through the proxy of splashes

wanted to show you everything:

This is where I learned to swim.

Off that pier I had my first dive.

This is my youth, my life so far.


            And this is my ambition:

About the Writer

      Chris Oke is working on a collection about scuba diving and Jacques Cousteau, fathers and sons. Poems from this collection have appeared in Queen’s Quarterly, Malahat Review, Canadian Literature, Dalhousie Review, Antigonish Review, Grain, EVENT, Nashwaak Review and Existere. Chris is also a founding editor of Errant, a literary travel writing magazine (

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