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The sunken city
hadn’t fully submerged
into its salty lagoon
when we explored its recesses

so much magic left here
by its former inhabitants,
pillars of blue light
rising from its waves,

bending, refracting
as if they were just a reflection
of the villas that still stood
empty porticoes
that led to nowhere.

As we passed one pillar
I thought I saw a human figure,
a man’s shadow,
trapped inside,

but it vanished when I turned
dissolved back into light
and I saw nothing more
than my own face
in the liquid surface
that I now hesitated to touch.

Looking down as my oar
cut through the limpid water,
filled with sparkling sunlight
I thought I saw a golden figure
swimming—no, drowning—

but my companions saw a golden statue
and seized a rope, leaping
from their own gondola
kicking vigorously down
deeper, deeper
to wrap a rope around
their prize.

I couldn’t call them back
these depths hold rapture
and I held my breath
though there was air all around me
as I watched them, too,
slowly drown.

Their limbs turned golden
with the light of the sun,
and yet, they must have been heavy—

they never rose,
and the city,
yes, that sunken city,
continued its leaden descent
till it, too, drowned.

The last time I ventured there,
crystal water covered all,
and far below,
nothing but golden houses,
golden bodies—
by some trick of light and waves
I thought that those trapped below
might have moved—
it almost seemed as if
they would be drowning

Deborah L. Davitt was raised in Nevada, but currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and son. Her prize-winning poetry has appeared in over fifty journals, including F&SF and Asimov’s. For more about her work, including her poetry collections, The Gates of Never and Bounded by Eternity, please see
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8 Aug 2022

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