from Anatomy of a Perfect Dive

Michael Symmons Roberts

copyright ©Michael Symmons Roberts, 2004


You’ve left the world. There. The land
was thin. The land, let’s be honest, was dying.


Technically, this is the crux.
You are living a half-life between

two elements. You may wish at this stage
to be photographed or painted.

Now you know what your solidity is for:
so gravity has something to work with.

Notes on the Poem

Michael Symmons Roberts carefully analyzes the perfect dive ... and captures it precisely and indeed perfectly, don't you think? What we're contemplating here is just a snippet of a much longer piece, from Michael Symmons Roberts' 2005 International Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection "Corpus." Since a dive, perfect or otherwise, takes mere moments in real life, any study, dissection or disassembling of a dive's steps or component parts will inherently take much longer than the act itself. Yet somehow, Roberts' light touch creates the illusion of it all happening in real time. "You’ve left the world. There." In the span of two breaths, Roberts has recreated the feeling of the leap, the swoop, the impact. Other aspects of how Roberts characterizes the dive intrigue. For example: "You are living a half-life between two elements." The line following "between" again seems to represent the brief breath between the leap and the downward trajectory of the dive. The word "half-life" might at a glance suggest the halfway point between departure and arrival or return, but in fact, half-life is a measure of decay or disintegration. What does that suggest about the dive Roberts is scrutinizing? Also rather interesting is: "You may wish at this stage to be photographed or painted." which perhaps inspired the cover artwork for the collection.

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