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When Bosses Sank Steel Islands

ISSUE:  Winter 1986

In the North Sea, I was issued this survival
suit and hired to dive.
From the chopper I looked into towers
neat as watchworks, fortresses
with orange flares that roared
in gassy, dragonish glamor, with oily steel
stairs whose perforations distantly contained
the sea.

Here wind is unimpeded.
We speak of it in knots,
as if that measure could restrain it.
You have to trust
unsteady things: the sealant, the wetsuit,
the precision of the pressure
chamber. After deep work
I rest for days there, dreaming of sea

level, of leaves, of stone
croft ruins backlit by refinery
lights, rills of yellow
that waver against night like nonpareils or rainbows
in a spill, and black-backed
gulls drilling down
on newborn lambs. Food

and magazines slip through
a lock and music through a pipe. When needed,
a diving bell lowers me to bottom. There
I tend harvest in the dark.
I make sure pipelines
leave the stinger at good angles. I do
odd jobs, cut and join, move
obstacles. Some say a blowout would kill all
those birds with feathery names: the kittiwake, the
puffins, murres . . . . What can I do?
I know one prayer: send gushers
of sun glad as Boomtowns, send
a breather. I dive to live.
I stand on my survival, a small platform
above the fuel, the revenues. I dive for what
some call a godsend:
Black gold! The world’s crude.


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