A Boy Knows the Sea

a boy knows the sea
for having lived near it.

even inland,
in the country side
among the tall grass where he and the neighbors run and jump
the salt air drifts in his hair
still today

i saw it myself
one morning
and had i not, i wouldn't believe the story

a foggy sunrise
the heat of the African sun jumping like dogs against the staying chains of night
and my neighbor, the boy
walking past my house
fearless, to the sea

i thought to stop him
that his mother would worry and his father would give chase
but his legs were dressed in certainty
the way to the sea was one he made himself
eyeing the depths, way out there

when he entered the surf
it lapped him up, one gargantuan gulp of the liquid earth
i gasped
i put my hand to the terrace column, spying over the far garden wall
to try to see the boy, but
nothing. he was gone.

and so i ran
i bound across the lawn
the door jammed
and so i scaled the wall, clumsy and scraping,
i jumped, jammed my foot in the door hinge,
cut my skin on the wood and flipped over the top
falling to the dirt

i took the guards by surprise and the
woman selling porridge laughed as i tripped up the road
trying to run

but as I stood
and straightened
i stopped.

arms out,
chin bent up to the sky,
i was stilled by the thrill
of the young force rising from the sea

the boy
exploded from the water, spinning with his arms outstretched
a thousand feet into the air, he circled back toward the earth
and dove
careening back into the waves

and somehow i knew
as high as he'd flew, it was nothing
against the depths to which he would dive

he turned his eyes to the dark
to the great expanse beneath the surface
the universe unseen by those that keep to the land
he passed friendly fish
the schools that swim in the sunny shallows
and he continued to go deeper

he went eye to eye with the great sharks
he remarked at the stories hidden between their jagged ivory and
kept diving, unharmed

he dodged old turtles, swimming in peace, unspun by the commotion

from deep below him
a giant shadow rose up
as long as a ship
a whale, frightening and awesome
he swam straight to it

he asked it questions
asked it what the Old Earth was like when she was young
asked it about the adventures a whale has
at the ends of the earth
among the towering icebergs of the polar south
and the northern lights, green and yellow adance in the sky,
above his home in the arctic waters

"a boy can only know the ocean", the whale said,
"if he sees the forests there"
and with that, the boy grabbed the tip of the whale's massive fin
and the whale dove

faster, stronger, braver than the boy had anticipated
a force in the sea that no man or woman can find on land
he dove with the great beast
his feet strung out behind him waving in their current
the sun disappeared and a new world rushed into his eyes
this Great Blue, his guide

from the dark, a thousand feet down
came the forest
leaves and stalks, the jungle of the great sea
hidden from the weary explorer but not so for the boy and his bravery
the whale made loops in these tremendous vines,
they stretched a thousand feet in every direction,
reaching at once, up for the moon and down, way down, to the center of the earth
the boy reached out his hand as they passed, rippling from one massive leaf to another
and in the boy's mind those images were set deep
the pictures of the Earth's great dark ocean canyons
filled with water and life
the pictures he knew he'd take back with him to the surface

when the boy made it back to shore, breathing deep and smiling
i rushed to him
panicked, i looked him over for wound or worry
distraught i told him to talk to me
but in all calmness,
in all certainty and purpose
he quieted me
he asked me for paint and paper
to leave him to the beach, to the sunset for a few moments more
to his making of memories
with his friend, the sea.

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