We climbed the ladder, fins in hand

Like monks in procession, silent

We entered the sanctuary

Reverent, prayerful while the hatch

Was shut and locked, the chamber tight.


Enshrined within, packed close, we looked

And hoped that all would go well as

We undogged the door, and turned the

Valve that began the flood and felt

The water’s coolness rising that


Could claim us or cause us such grave

Discomfort that we hope the bubble

Holds as the water reaches higher

Until it stops and the door swings out

And we can see the blue world beyond.


The monk across from me, his cowl

In place, ducks below the surface

And we follow one by one into

The blue shadows, a gray world of

Adventure, swimming with the fish.


Our holds remain tight as we move

At 3 knots, the submarine a

Black mass silently sliding with

Us attached and moving at our tasks

Ever mindful of the screw’s revolutions


That would turn us into a form of

Chum if we were swept off; so the

Vigilance never wavers as

We glance skyward to the silver

Surface shot with light and movement.


It is our sanctuary, a

Place of respite, a haven within

Reach that can be taken if we

Kick forth and glide upward on legs

Moving with those long scissor kicks.


With all tasks complete, we return

To the chamber door, leaving the

Magic of this whale world, reluctant

But compliant, we slide through and

Pop the bubble until we are in.


We call in and twist the valve again,

Increase the air pressure which drains

The tank and we open the hatch,

Climb down into the dank comfort

Of the forward torpedo room.


These monks remove their rubber cowls

And black skins, joking, a special

Order whose altar service is a knife

Honed sharp and a willingness, a

Compulsion, to dance with death’s wet face.



John Gulick

BUD/S Class 35 wc

August 23, 1995  10:33 p.m.

Hayden Lake, Idaho