We adult children look at aging and say no thanks, not for me, best to keep a safe distance. But aging is patient, biding its time, confident of its purpose. From seemingly nowhere, our safe distance collapses and a new truth emerges. This mutative moment haunts Carol Bialock’s magnificent poem Breathing Underwater, an intergenerational elegy to what this does to all of us…
By Carol Bialock
I built my house by the sea.
Not on the sands, mind you,
not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock.
A strong house
by a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences,
respectful, keeping our distance
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.
Always the fence of sand our barrier,
always the sand between.
And then one day
(and I still don’t know how it happened)
The sea came.
Without welcome even.
Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across the sand like wine,
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.
And I thought of flight, and I thought of drowning, and I thought of death.
But while I thought, the sea crept higher till it reached my door.
And I knew that there was neither flight nor death nor drowning.
That when the sea comes calling you stop being good neighbors,
Well acquainted, friendly from a distance neighbors.
And you give your house for a coral castle
And you learn to breathe under water.