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

The 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

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.

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