I wish we had more time together
Things would look so different underwater
When you consider all the ways
This tale could unfurl
Can you imagine a different world?
One structured by
The raw materials
Of hope, love and truth
Where people can see
Beyond their fears
Where things unsaid aren’t
Made to degrade
Where words and their shades
Don’t obscure but create
When I think of us and the space
I think of eternity and a place unseen
I think of waves and safety
I think of flesh and blood of my own
When I reach out in my imagination
To touch the borders of the world we created
I feel blessed to be whole
I feel blessed to be whole
When I wrote this poem, I titled it “Time Underwater” not knowing why… sometimes when I’m in the flow of writing, I just let my fingers take over and try not to question the muse.
It is only after re-reading the poem a few days after penning it that the poem triggered my memory of of the last scene in the movie “The Shape Of Water.” In that moment, I knew that the poem was aptly titled.
The movie is about Elisa, an awkward and curious woman, who stumbles upon a life-size amphibious creature that is held captive in a secret research facility where she works as a janitor. She is drawn to this strange creature, and out of compassion for his plight, she tries to save him from certain death by lab-experimentation and grows to develop a singularly unique relationship with him.
In their attempt to find freedom and safety, they encounter much opposition and are forced to reckon with the cruelty, hatred and prejudice of the lab scientists and other adversaries. In the midst of her relationship with him, she also sees his raw and animalistic side as well – a part of him she comes to realize and accept that is innate and immutable. However, she doesn’t get fazed by it and persists helping him find safety and freedom.
In the midst of the process, she falls in love with him.
In order to spend a lifetime with this exotic creature, Elisa has to escape the earth-bound world of humans and flee to the ocean with him. The last scene in the movie really struck me, not just because I was not expecting it, but because there was a kind of beauty and grace in something that I would normally consider quite horrific – in the ocean, she is transformed into the likeness of the creature itself.
When they plunge deep into the water, she starts to transform – slits form in her neck and become gills, her hands and her feet become webbed, and she turns many shades darker and develops a coat of scales… in order to be with him, she gives up her life as a human being and by some feat of grace becomes the female equivalent of the creature.
What a trip!
I remember leaving the movie feeling a little ill-at-ease. I wondered if she was happier being an amphibian than a human being and if it was worth it. I imagined what it was like for her, living in the cold dark underwater and shuddered a-little. I also felt a bit displaced. I was hoping she would just drop him off into the water and go on and lead her own merry little life. Never once did I suspect that she would be part of the equation of the final goal of freedom and safety… or maybe I misread it, the initial goal was freedom and safety, but it soon transformed into attachment and relationship, something that is just a tad more complicated.
As mentioned, that picture of them holding each other underwater while she transforms evokes in me both a sense of horror and grace. I have explained some of the horror I felt, however I haven’t yet unpacked the element of grace in this picture.
The way she held nothing back and gave herself freely to him and to the moment left a deep impression on me. I had questions about it: was this sheer stupidity? Was this a testament to the old adage “love is blind” or was this something deeper and more mysterious that I can articulate at this point in time?
Perhaps it is this same audacious love that speaks to me of grace. This was not a calculated, rational move, dependent on the merits and reciprocity of her partner, this was love, freely given with complete abandonment and unconditionality.
I don’t know and perhaps will never know if what she did was right or wrong, even for her. But she was lonely and looking for something more in her life, she found the creature and a sense of purpose, sure enough, she found herself through helping him, and in that process, she found love or at the very least, a close approximation of it.