Matthew Roth

When the news comes for you, as it’s bound to come, 
you will know you’ve been swimming for years
toward the surface of this day, this day

when the news fills you up like a lung, like air
surprising the diver, who, having lived too long
in that slow, dreamlike buoyancy of the sea, 

forgets how substanceless, griefless
the air can be, all that sunlight smashing
the black water to pieces. Some of you  

will leave the sea behind, climb willingly
into the possible, feeling your legs,
shaking them out, first one and then the other,

and some of you will turn, return to the sea,
diving deeper this time, down past the reef
with its travesty of companionship,

deeper to where there is no light but the light
of dark swimmers, finning by without fear
or expectation, impossibly lit from within.

Author's Commentary: “The News” began with the prospect of a specific tragedy, the news of which, like the tragedy itself, had not yet arrived. I liked this direction, but eventually it felt like too much and I decided to lop off the first half of the poem. This shifted the emphasis from the tragedy itself to the ways we go on once the tragedy has come.

Matthew Roth is the author of Bird Silence (Woodley Press, 2009). His poems have appeared in 32 Poems, Birmingham Poetry Review, Verse, Antioch Review and many other journals. He teaches creative writing at Messiah College, in Grantham, PA.