This Poem Is Not About Jacques Cousteau
Earth’s cries echo underwater.
Everything we’ve done to deface her,
the seas mirror. What happens down below, harbingers.
Dolphins, ancient oarfish, immortal medusas—
some say they can detect the fall of man
before man can shoe up for a stroll to the corner store.
The world erupts, silent no longer.
How can a flare burn so bright, so deep, so burdened
under all that weight?
Odysseus on the shore of Calypso’s floating island,
Da Vinci of the deep,
reincarnate in a red toboggan.
By poring over a saucer, spilling tea,
he flipped a system; he heard the drowning chanting
I can’t breathe
and made a new lung, to ride or die on thirsty, salty backs.
Down in the trenches, life
eludes the aquanauts
who seek to unravel marvels:
what brine delights, how seamlessly sinuous skin kins
to oxygen and the element of Sol.
Meanwhile, barely keeping our heads above water,
we travel at speeds of haves and have-nots.
Can we narrow the wide gulf between two halves
and make one whole?
Where we bring to light the unfathomed,
shadows need not hide the truth.
Rumi says, You are not
a drop in the ocean.
You are the ocean in a single drop.
And everybody knows, the ocean,
the life force, the origin of blood and beauty,
isn’t blue. It’s black.
Earth’s Echo - the name of the youth environmental action group founded by Cousteau’s grandson, Philippe Pierre Jacques-Yves Arnault Cousteau, Jr.
Some jellyfish are called immortal because they can revert to their polyp stage in times of stress. https://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/14-fascinating-facts-about-jellyfish.html
"The Silent World” - Jacques Cousteau’s first book which was then turned into his first film, which was the first documentary to ever win an Academy Award.
I was intrigued by the underwater flares the divers held during their early submarine explorations and really did wonder how they worked. This, of course, is a reference to the incredible talents and achievements of black people that have gone under-appreciated, neglected or abused under the cloak of racism.
In The Odyssey, Odysseus washed up on the shores of an island where he met a beautiful enchantress named Calypso, who kept him imprisoned there for seven years. Calypso was the name of Cousteau’s research boat, purchased for him by a millionaire who rented it back to him for $1 a year.
Cousteau designed a vessel for deep sea exploration called the Diving Saucer. He got the inspiration for the design from placing one inverted tea saucer on top of another.
He also designed the precursor to SCUBA equipment, an oxygen tank worn on the back, called the aqualung.
He referred to his scientific research divers as aquanauts.
Sol - the Roman god of the sun; Sun; also Soul - soul food, soul music - traditional components of African-American culture. Also the soul
A knot equals one nautical mile per hour; a unit of measurement for speed traveled over water.
Rumi - 13th century Sufi poet and sage
This poem was originally written upon request for a collaborative art project between art teacher Brock Gordon and student extraordinaire Connor Boone at fusion academy, The Woodlands, TX. It was completed on June 8, 2020, which happened to be World Oceans’ Day and the two-week anniversary of the death of George Floyd.