by Michelle Peñaloza

A child waits upon the sea.
He cannot explain how the water became
an endless field of bamboo,
banana leaves, rolling wild grass and fern.
Only that one night the moon was bright
enough to break his sleep.
Beneath that light, his mother became an ibis;
his father and brother, two tiger shrikes.
Sister, a laughing thrush.
They flew into the moonlight, the sea-reefs’
branches of water,
the unceasing waves of leaves. 

Oarless and alone, the boy
learned the leaves
could power his boat with song.
They sang of creatures of the swamp, of killing
fields and hills of poisoned trees. 

The leaves carried the boy to sanctuary,
where he kept their songs and taught himself to sing.
He sang to ibis, shrike, and thrush,
songs of children who could grow wings, songs
that could conjure galaxies
within the bowls of lotus leaves, become
butterflies in his mouth. He sang to
the infinity he found: billowing grass,
fronds of ferns, the quicksilver of the moon.

Last updated December 17, 2022