Sister and the Diving Bell

This is the first version of a poem originally commissioned for an online education platform and, as such, is aligned to a number of grade 6 ELA and lexile standards. This piece contains emotional themes that may be stressful for students and families. Teachers are free to reproduce, edit, or use this work freely in their lessons as they see fit.


My mama’s belly grew

five sizes the summer before my

first day of middle school

I pressed my ear to it heard

sloshing ocean waves asked her

What’s in there?

remember the glow in her eyes as

she replied, you’re getting a little sister


She explained that

in the old days, they used

large bells cast in iron to explore the sea

pushed them straight down into ocean blue

one could sit inside the bell

a little pocket of air to keep them safe

while they searched the inky depths

It’s like that, she said


I laid against my mother’s diving bell

every night listened to

tiny thumping heart a

signal back to shore


Then one day it happened

mama came home pale-faced

red-eyed my father sat next to her

held her in his arms as she sobbed softly


That night the bell was silent I

listened and listened until mama

heaved and heaved rubbed my

hair over and over

told me the baby had slipped out

from under the bell to

go exploring and

had not come home


Mama told me she’s still out there swimming

let me listen at her ocean waves

searching for the thrumming signal

until I fell asleep


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