How James Cook Was Nurtured by a Blue Clam
Salted days and windblown stars our mission
stated be: the inking of parallax. When
parted the water around atolls
maps confirmed an emerald beyond the reef.
Pandanus’ bark beckons idles and so evening
exposed its tender meat for snails. Above the
roots playing a chime of pods,
the mangrove crab accompanies their feast.
The shell unfolds its tongue outstretched to tides
its open whirl the sun pulls back and dries. Oars
press against the fulcrum ocean curls
to syncopate fleet martial revelries.
Between terns’ cadence a flag unfurls, the
eyepiece we mounted thus from the her bow.
We see the Roman lady pace the sun
We marked and took the telescope in turn.
Our voyage that night its purpose lay clear.
The glass was bent but how could we know as
Britain awaits our notes, the boats we
sent our sights to match center never found.
Three times our moon passed away before us, as
here we found what long we thought upon.
Vanilla and Sailor’s Valentines to be
So set we at last preparing for sea.
Feather peplums joined with coconut charms
their songs we embraced, our engravings true
but memory selects sensational facts:
sacrifice was the way they knew.
Collecting ship, we treasure the least rare: the
seeds, the hides of creatures large and small, the
temperature of parts unknown, the glass
holds worlds known by the microscope alone.
I but a new man, a tabula rasa, my wax now
fused to freshly mollusced sands, peeled back
the shell, poured in the boiling sea,
and from blue flesh yet she a gleaming white.
While ocean touched her brief array she glowed
Yet when I packed her in wool cloth she grayed.
If time should take me back to those late waves,
I would return to that black beach the pearl.