Addendum to Sea Journal
One week in. I’m still walking on eggshells with a few members of the crew, but for the most part people seem to be coming together. Playing guitar, reading, and all the blessings of calm seas in the last 12 hours or so. Sleep could come easier but my dreams are lovelorn and real as a bruise. Good to escape the night, even just into my own skull. More wakeful hours mean that my body is adjusting to my watch duties, sea-life and the itch that coffee’s absence has left in my forebrain. Small wonders are reclaimed: the candied and once-familiar heavens, clean furls on the bowsprit, the sixty-thousand voices of the wind and the echoes of the body under strain or in the lap of the breeze. Still to come, there’s all the heady vertigo aloft, the quiet there, the full and honest confidence of knowing every pull and tie I need to make this boat sail clean down the thighs of the Pacific, a new and yet familiar ocean, unknowable and same, vacillating in its mood and skin and company. Maybe this time, love can grow out here untethered to a human form, fill and slake some thirst run raw from months of blooming sand and indecision. Today, I am waiting for a skin of fresh young words. The sea is bodiless but limbed, all full and ready to fill any vessel, vase or vassal with a hollow or a hold that’s wanting. Is it only in defense of her that we so seek to float? Only woe can come to those who won’t defend themselves from those they love-they are soon drowned by dreams or waters.
Passover and pasta for dinner. Just got through another game of whist, an everyday affair. Blake and Emiloo are still in the main salon building a pornographic scrabble board to sublimate their libidinous frustrations. Just heard word-no deployments tonight (first time!) in honor of our kaleidoscopic radar screen and the howling winds that manage to blow loose the hair of diners all the way down in the main salon, singing operatic down the tuba vents. It’s South Pacific par excellence: hot as a horny camel’s nutsack and squally to boot. To use the word humid would be a perverse understatement.
To recap my time on Kiritimati (Christmas Island), the world’s largest atoll: Snorkling first, then a walk down to the lagoon, where huge bloated eels and fish remains shared beachfront real-estate with a mob of trash and shit-piles, the horizon flat and sere and tasting like a dirty nickel. Water the color of a nobleman’s eyes, clouds hulking and pushing like fat kids in line at a doughnut shop, and one skirted Micronesian who tore into the water as if his gills had dried up, all of him fishlike, slick and dark, hairless and strong in the way of an eel, a rice sack full of bonefish in his hands as he strolled out of the lagoon like a totem.
Soon after, we arrived in London, the metropolitan capital of the island, a tiny hamlet of frond shacks and stucco steeples. Low-ceilinged longhouses were everywhere, jerry-rigged with the manilla hawsers of the imperial master into open-air protestant churches. One vast and coral-paved soccerfield/grange presided, circled by lounging youth and lazy trees, where the municipality had erected a DJ table and two million-watt speakers to blast reggaeton, hula, and Midwestern country music to every corner of town. Brown men, women and children stared, and all but the most prideful broke into a toothy grin when we waved. Occasionally, a toddler would leap out naked from within a wave or in church clothes from behind mound of coconut husks just to wave to us, delighted when we sent the salutation back. Tom and Spenser, intoxicated by the idle soma of the island, sat at the foot of the only bar in town in the hopes that it would open, and me and Sarah looked for other things to do. What we found were furtive glances, stray dogs cooking in the road and piglets hobbled up to palm trees. The only restaurant in town (a Chinese place of all things) was empty and could not make change for my $50 bill. Neither could any of the handful of tiny grocers that provisioned the town out of cargo containers with those items not gathered from tree, shrub or fish net. Between three of these Bodegas, we managed to snag two frozen Milky Way bars, a can of 7up, several bags of M&Ms, a T-shirt and an unwholesome supply of XXX (“the black stuff”) beer.
Night now, the land lights off to port making a mockery of our sea-worn faces that can’t help but stare at the alien pinpricks of light. There was a sunset, and we learned that land burns faster than water in a dusk fire. Nothing is really new, just lightning cobwebbing to-and-fro to weather. Last night around this time, a boobie smashed into the mainstays’l and careened down to the deck, clipping Hannah and landing on the scientific carousel. Girls shrieked, crowds gathered, Jan took compromising photos and prodded the bird with a screwdriver until it nipped and finally buried its head in its back plumage so as to play guillotined. Eventually Jan tossed it in the water, but soon it was up on the quarterdeck taffrail suffering the attentions of more cameras and giggling sailorettes. Still, it held its ground until the Boson, furious with the prospect of an unscheduled deckwash, sprayed it back into oblivion with a hose.
5/5/2008 Images of Paradise
A cloud explores the erect promontories like a tongue.
A grave, white washed and shining below flowers,
dug in the front yard of a plywood house with unglassed windows.
A young hibiscus flower burning in the road
like a trauma, awaiting the tires of its fate.
A black beach littered with the bibelots of the deep, spiraling shells rearranging
themselves on little legs like a chessmaster’s carnival.
Half a shark.
A page of homework snagged across a mangrove which wears printed rags
like flags the wind has flown.
The proud half-light that cups and guilds the silhouettes beyond the shore, refusing to touch upon the work-weary who march home beside the inland roads.
Old women in huge helmets riding barefoot down dirt paths in dusty scooters.
A band of outsized puppies chase a piglet through the brush, nipping.
The gang of barefoot kids that follow.
The gardens grown tall with breadfruit, nonni, yucca, banana and papaya, all
splitting ripe and raining sweet rot onto beds of pickup trucks and snouts
of spring-tied rocking horses.
A bamboo tripod sagging roadside under weight of three prize skipjacks,
eyes wide as coconuts and barely smelling in the breeze.
A single, black and national tattoo winding like lineage from arm to neck to back to cheek to calf to brow in imitation of a history, unwritten except in skin, depicting creatures of the generous and violent sea, the changeling sky and lesser gods that posture with their paddles and their clubs.
Bonefish stirring in a rice sack.
A train of white lapels like petals on the blossom of a rural church, and the pollen of song that drifts onto the shoulders of the youths who dwarf their bicycles across the street.
The submerged coral heads like age-spots in the lagoon’s luster.
Three generations sitting waist-deep in the sea and shucking shellfish into ordered piles of meat and nacre.