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Dama de aguas oscuras, last night

I dreamed of phosphor under a starlit


dome. Far above such unending ghost-light

the gales harangued (as gales do). Your half-wit


brat sat in low, loathy dark; wheezing down

the last air in his rust iron coffin.


Lady of dark waters, they say to drown

is abysmal, but if I can return


to you through your blessed sea or ill ocean,

then I’ll slip my box’d boat through opal waves


to rest my grave under high tide and slow

sea-swill. Lay me, if it’s your will, all shrunken,


alone, calling this dream fate. Glow of graves,

Santa Muerte, lost in the tidal flow.



The Bony Lady, Santa Muerte, has many names; “Dama de las aguas oscuras,” Lady of the dark waters, is one of them. The idea of this poem actually came to me several years ago when I was reading about the early attempts of the Imperial Japanese navy to build their own submarine. In 1910 one of their first prototypes sank during a training dive in Hiroshima Bay. Although the water was only 18 metres deep it proved impossible for the crew to escape while submerged. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Tsutomu Sakuma, patiently wrote descriptions of his sailor’s efforts to bring the boat back to the surface as their oxygen supply ran out. All of the sailors were later found dead at their stations when the submarine was finally raised the following day.