Heavenly Creatures Contest Winner: “Fathom” by Claire Bateman

Oct 25, 2018 | Bubbler, FSR

Of drowning in the sky there can be no end.
Even the sky drowns in place,
plummeting, shocked to be vertical, 
and only as it gaspingly approaches the ground
does it start to perceive its own transparent nature—
all along, it had assumed its labor
was occlusive, its given name “obsidian,” 
but now it is exposed as tender,
woundable, light and slow.
And where did anyone learn such drowning
if not from looking up, only to stumble,
knocked off-balance, filling with sky
as it continuously arrives for the first time?
The point where the sky is most accessible is the sky itself.
The point where the sky is least comprehensible is also the sky,
hosting migratory trenches, abysses, ridges and ranges of air,
shifting between stillness and seismic tremor,
calamity-sapphire; blown-crystal black;
in-your-face aquamarine with dollops of mauve and rose
or milky with held-back snow, amplifying silence.
There is as yet no clinical protocol
for individuals who trudge through the world
heads down, sky-rejecting, gravity-obsessed.
Various treatments have been attempted—
ultrashortwave diathermy and radiosurgery as well as
elliptical back-of-the-neck tapping with ice wands;
musical castigations and interrogations;
 and repeated backwalking through mirrors
according to the theory that the sky began as a mirror,
that is, an attenuated reflective
amalgam of water and ante-historical liquid glass
whose mutated off-castings still emerge
now and then from Saharan sands.
Older, long-abandoned speculations include
the sky as ultra-luminous rarified wax
exuded by bees vibrating faster than the speed of light;
the sky as an ethereal pearl still forming in layers
around some ancient galactic irritation;
and the sky as resonance filling a concave hollow earth
whose inner shell we inhabit, enlivened
by the central electromagnetic blaze that is the sun.
But regarding this tragic phenomenon
of sky-refusal—in the continued absence of a cure,
mothers are taking the matter into their own hands,
attempting to immunize by immersion,
tossing their infants into the air again and again
to gulp clear tropospheric bubbles that expand
as the child grows here in the elapsing present
where every full-capacity human
measures larger on the inside than bodily parameters
should allow, maintaining that paradoxical volume
until the final breath, when sky reunites with sky
as fresh self-drowning, since for this voluminous
transposition, the way out is the way in.
Image may contain: 1 personClaire Bateman’s most recent poetry collection is SCAPE with New Issues Poetry 7 Prose, and has a new collection coming out with 42 Miles Press and Wolfson Press, a combined project. She is also a visual artist.