“Snorkeling,” by Allison Funk


What if, late in my life,
an old love returned?
……..I might get carried away

as I did my first time in that otherworld
ablaze with coney
……..and neon blue tang,

soundless except for the resonance
of my breath, a hypnotic
……..one-two, now/then, why not

love me. I must have seen
the stoplight parrotfish
……..beam red from a grotto,

but, heedless, sped up,
flippers propelling me over coral
……..resembling Gaudí’s Sagrada Família

still unfinished after a hundred years.
……..I circled the remains

of countless marine animals.
Fragile memorials, yes,
……..but not harmless I’d learn:

the thousand mouths of the reef
that open out of hunger,
……..alive to the careless swimmer

who comes too close.
One who, succumbing to the pull
……..of the beautiful, swims out

so far she finds herself at the mercy
of surf that flings her
……..against the stinging ridge.

Cells meeting cells, tentacles, flesh,
she’s left with the mark
……..of a fiery ring that burns longer

than a slap. Weeks. Months.
A tattoo that may never fade
……..from the soft underside of her arm.


From Wonder Rooms (Parlor Press, Free Verse Editions 2015) and reprinted here with permission of the press.

Listen to the poet reading “Snorkeling” here.

Links to reviews of Funk’s work are here and here.


Allison Funk is the author of five books of poems, including Wonder Rooms (Free Verse Editions of Parlor Press 2015), available for order here. Previous books include The Tumbling Box, The Knot Garden, Living at the Epicenter (winner of the Samuel French Morse Prize), and Forms of Conversion. Funk has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Society of America, and the Poetry Foundation, as well as residencies to Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, Ragdale, the Hawthornden Castle International Writers Retreat in Scotland, and the Dora Maar House in France. Her poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Best American Poetry, Cincinnati Review, The Paris Review, Poetry, Shenandoah, Poetry Northwest, When She Named Fire: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by American Women, and elsewhere. She is Professor Emerita at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.


Poet’s Note

I was sixty before I realized my dream of snorkeling at sea. In the Caribbean for the first time, with friends, I boarded a boat from which I dove into waters teeming with iridescent fish. A strong swimmer, I swam farther and farther out, spellbound until, suddenly, unaccountably, I was swept right onto a reef of sharp-bodied, stinging coral. Stunned, and stung badly, I’m not sure how I got back to the boat. I only know I was lured by marine beauty as dangerous as human beauty which, likewise, can carry us away.


Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • MARJORIE STELMACH December 2, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    This is the first time I’ve visited the site, drawn by Allison Funk’s wonderful poem. I love the links to reviews and found the commentary page compelling. I’m looking forward to being a subscriber.