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. 
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