5 April 2008 0215
Time trembles and the ocean passes by. We are nearing the equator. Clouds gather, whisper rain, whisper you are near the center of things. The boat holds to a steady clip along the waning crests, and underneath, currents and counter-currents fence like swordsmen, streaming or bumping shoulders as do pedestrians at crowded crosswalks. Deeper still, the small and far-flung immigrants of the ocean depths, the zooplankton, are trapped beneath an anoxic zone like ants sealed tight into a ziplock bag. Boobies and turns gather, plucking young and frenzied flying fish out of the beaks of glowing squids below. The boat is quiet but for droning fans, the echo-sounder chirping itself to sleep and the occasional slap of a maverick wave against the hull. In the main salon, fragrant cookies cool in bins above a triumvirate of gimbaled tables nodding to each other in the humid darkness. There is the smell of salt and coffee, dim lamps glow along the bulkheads, wash cycles spin in the leeward port-lights. Deep is the silence of a working crew relieved from duty in the early morning hours. From down the hall, a candied apple glow betrays a third mate plotting star-sights in the doghouse, unblinking numbers fidgeting around him on a crowd of instruments. Further up, someone is slump-backed at the helm, singing old camp songs and correcting for the harmless mess the sea makes of a straight line. Taught, bellied sails tower above her, leaning hard and almost falling from the wind, letting the science deck-light surge upon their faces and trickle back down in a wash of spray. We have gear in the water, some huge and technical object full of batteries and switches, sent to sink on steel-toothed tether and to come back whole and hale to tell a tale of salt and heat, hungry plants the size of pin-heads and the oxygen-starved fish whose eyes are far too weak to know the ugliness of their gape-mouthed brethren.
8 April 2008 0230
Easter now, the boat turns
like in sleep, enjoying air.
I am on the deck, dog watch
over a pile of nail clippings
one floats up to play moon.
Naked in night-skin, done
with shivering, with the greased eyes
of the company below
under hot freshwater
scrubbing soap out
delivering what’s died
back to the sea, the source and sink.
Out here, the only dirt
is body loss, the tired flesh
the oil which waterproofs us,
toe-jam, belly lint, crumbs
in the mustache.
All this, and the spite of close quarters,
dried blood in the lines of palms
and three more days of wind-salt
curl like squids towards the scuppers.
The ocean groans, the deck cringes and whines.
Water on water on water
And away we go.
24 April 2008 1423
Long week. If booze can dim the fires of the mind in sleep, then sailboats stoke them to a blaze. I’ve been dreaming of life and death. Two nights ago, I was tried and sentenced to die, provisioned with an ampule of good poison and a rollicking party. It seemed such a waste to drink the stuff before the party fizzled, but alas twas me who was the grand finale. Drifting out of dream-world consciousness, I drifted into consciousness and contemplated what elegance could garnish death, and how much memory and dignity each day or minute meted, how much an extra hour’s worth. Last night, I dreamt I met a son of mine, still bug-eyed young and fontaneled, and in the space and time of dream I learned to love him as my own, and waking I lamented our parting. What is my body/mind trying to tell me? The two of us were on a pier, holding iced cream and waiting for a ferry (but to where?) His mother was a beautiful, short-haired and faceless thing, a gift-bearing angel of impersonal relation.
27 April 2008 1540
The ocean feels the rain-lash and the cooling fog, and lifts its long sharp fins. This morning, islands rose up out of cloud, the huge black ragged blades of younger islands born of volcanism. First was Bora Bora, which we left to starboard as we neared the hulking Raiatea in its color of chocolate and with a top-hat of high cotton pulled low over its ears. Soon we were deep into a ring of peaks and atolls, each holding their feet above the wet plain in a wash of mist, and if they were of chocolate in their color, some giant gap-toothed brat had bit their tops off. In the open sea, all is alone and so nothing is lonely. But here, where each small island measures off the distance separating its neighbors, growing jealous of some others which seem amorously close, each spit of land has kept a cloud familiar, making and tending each in their own image so that the strands seem doubled up above themselves, a higher shadow of the land all cast in white.
We have, after a full cycle of moons, surely arrived someplace at last, at once, in the lee of everything, shining in the gentle drizzle, cooling our raisined heads and taking cues from Captain as to when to pull our foulies on, dousing them only when Cook decides its safe to show his face on deck. A Sunday holy as the sea can make it with such shallow, rhythmic prayers. All eyes are cast to landwards and to weather, often both. Morning and evening, the thirtieth day.