Bitter nostalgia for a place that proved
imaginary always brings to mind
the temple frescoes framed by waving kelp
and perfect friezes choked with barnacles
full fathoms five, in the empire of the fish.

The powers that be, unable to discern
the elsewhere or the used-to-be, consigned
them to the echoing depths of outremer.
To gain their cedar lanes and agoræ
the traveller keeps company with eels
and skirts the sunken wrecks and giant clams
that lie athwart the esplanades.

                                                   And o!
To raise that land once more into the air,
and bring that mucky bottom to the light!
But how to bear the stench of rotting fish,
and stranded merfolk shrivelled by the sun?

The best thing is to leave them where they are,
safe in their submarine antipodes,
to let the fabulous hydropolis
become a favorite exotic spa,
and there occasionally to repair,
to hire a guide with gills, and take the waters.

April 9, 1999

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