A Philosophy of Water

I. Myth

In the beginning was the sea
and there was nothing to contain it.

How the spirit soars with each crest
slough crest and cowers with the slough

crest slough is the moment I always
sail for, the rise as terrible

as the plunge, terrible
because primal, this urge

to taste the spray and keep it
in the tongue, salty with wonder.

I imagine the ancestors like this,
the patriarch standing on the outrigger,

the great mother letting loose her hair
against the wind while nursing her child,

another young one hiding behind
her skirt. What other horizons

they were pursuing, I could not know.
What they found was the shore.

II. Passage through the Samar Sea

This is no Sea of Galilee where He surely will be
to admonish faithlessness. We are told
He would sleep through it all,
waking only at the height of the storm
to calm the sea giving in
to the wind?s teasing.
He could make them obey,
had no need to contain them.
Or He could come from
the shore, walking on water.
Even as we get to the deeper
trenches where ships pass
and boats almost flounder,
we are still on the surface
of things.

II. Epicurus amused

Rocked by the waves,
the young boy has buried
his face on his sister?s lap.
In the slate sheen, only the seabirds
swoop and play.

III. Epictetus above the waves

Where everything goes awry so soon ?
one of the back outriggers broke keep the engine
running balance the boat get that pole
in here use that bench instead fasten it
keep calm ? some unburden themselves
in words. The old woman sits
clutching her rosary, a few
sleep undisturbed, others keep watch
on the sea. Let them be.
In your cabin, it is only the stern back
of your head that is visible through
the slats, while you sit silent
with the weight of every one
of them. Scrape of rock or
surge of water, sea or shore,
it doesn?t matter. Nothing here
is yours to lose.

IV. The Captain

We learned by memory the anatomy
of waves, the structure of whirlwinds.
Ours is a philosophy of water,
its weight inevitable, intimating
mortality. Yet this is also how births
come to pass, a sheath of water
breaking, the way it could
if in the next plunge we sink
into our proper depths.
To put shore as a limit
to sea is a conceit
of discovery. Scrape of rock
or surge of water, there is
no shaking off fear. The wisdom
of the seas proclaim it is
the rudder, itself the only way
to steer.