Sketches from a Childhood Sea
"… the sea is a continual miracle, / … What stranger miracles are there?"
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.
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.
I was set aside:
The depths roused
my animal life.
Horseshoe crab with its
shell of chitin.
ships had sailed
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.
- Joseph O. Legaspi (from Memorious)