Poetry: Some Day, Underwater Archaeologists by S.J. Pearce
“Some day, I realize, underwater archaeologists / will find, upon necropsy, the artifacts of my brief presence / in the stomach of the last Great White that entered the lagoon”
Take a deep dive into the crystalline imagery of “Some Day, Underwater Archaeologists” by S.J. Pearce. A meditation on existence that questions the contents of our own lives.
Some Day, Underwater Archaeologists
“Some day,” he says, “underwater archaeologists
will write a doctoral dissertation
on the contents of my apartment.”
The acqua alta spills out of the tops of his rain boots as he kneels
to get a closer look at a painting in the expatriated Fortuny museum.
I do not know it yet but I will never return.
I watched Jaws on my last flight here;
mid-air is the only congenial place to watch that movie.
I did not know that sharks had entered the Venetian lagoon.
I did not know there was a movie called A Shark in Venice.
Fewer sharks enter the lagoon
now that engineers have installed the half-functioning inflatable dam system
meant to protect the archipelago against the acqua alta
even though it turned out to deter sharks more effectively than floods.
(Julia Child would be jealous. The shark deterrent
she invented as an agent for the old OSS
was more effective against floods than sharks.)
Some day, I realize, underwater archaeologists
will find, upon necropsy, the artifacts of my brief presence
in the stomach of the last Great White that entered the lagoon:
An expired epi-pen
The weirdly-shaped ring my grandmother used to wear
Susan Orlean’s book about the LA Public Library fire
The rest of my library, that might as well have burned
Most of an uneaten box of Altoids
The photographs that don’t exist
The photographs I can’t get off my old laptop
Shampoo and conditioner I thought I’d use in February
That little black dress with the bracket-shaped neckline
Two volumes of an Arabic-Italian dictionary set
The smallest jar of ground nutmeg
Hand-knit silk dress socks locked in a cupboard
Every blank notebook
One unopened bottle of naranja agria imported from the Americas
Some day, I know, underwater archaeologists
will revise their doctoral dissertation into a book
and exhibition catalogue. They will acknowledge
the forensic veterinary pathologist
who necropsied the shark that consumed my brief presence
and carried it from the apartment out to the Adriatic Sea.
S.J. Pearce is a writer and translator who lives in New York City. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Laurel Review, The Reform Jewish Quarterly, Asymptote, Copihue, Litro, and others; her public-facing literary criticism has appeared in the LA Review of Books, Public Books, and the Washington Post. Her first chapbook manuscript was named a finalist for the Laurel Review’s 2021 Midwest Chapbook Competition and the Omnidawn 2023 Poetry Chapbook Contest, as well as a semifinalist for the 2023 Verse/Tomaz Salamun Prize. She was a member of the 2022 cohort of the Brooklyn Poets Mentorship Program. In the academic realm, she teaches medieval literature and cultural history at New York University and publishes on the history of reading and translation in the medieval Mediterranean world.