Sketches from a Childhood Sea
“… the sea is a continual miracle, / … What stranger miracles are there?” ~Walt Whitman
I was born surrounded. * Scroll down map. Manna. My first glimpse of the archipelago. Directive finger pointed at the dispersal, god-thundered Here, brown islands breaking up blue parchment like a birthmark. * My tiny toes tickled by tropical sand, I faced a roaring power, charging relentlessly but unable to reach me. Great strength and its limits. Yet, drawn, I refused to be brave against a great rapture. * Pacific Ocean. South China Sea. Babuyan Channel. Strait of Luzon. Mindoro Strait. Bohol Sea. Sulu Sea. Celebes Sea. Philippine—. * We are not separated by water, rather connected by it. * My uncles each grabbed a limb—legs and arms—I feared being torn apart. A frog pinned as an asterisk in science class, ready for the scalpel. Then swung like a hammock until released into the monstrous mouth of the ocean. What they taught the city boy was how to flail. * I loved the briny taste of me. Sea salt crusted on my lips, skin. The outrigger canoe at sunrise, haul of the nets ornamented like Christmas. * Through the screen of urban night I try to envision the sea. It is there, waves like sonar. Traveling hushed yet vibrating as underwater. My mother was my original sea. I was divine, then microscopic. I outgrew, turned into raft, boat, yacht. How do I remain saline? * Before I was born the world existed. (Imagine.) I was set aside: one cell, ocean reconfigured. The depths roused my animal life. Crawled. Horseshoe crab with its shell of chitin. Before consciousness ships had sailed across histories. * I was then moved to the other end of the Pacific. * As I flew over it, on an American plane, I reminisced of the summers shrimping in the tributaries, of fishing boats laden with lobsters and sun-golden men, of the time I bicycled over a toad, flattened on my hurry to the sea.