Adrift

Bao Phi
A shipping container of rubber duckies made in China for the US washed overboard in 1992, and some of them traveled and washed ashore over 17,000 miles over 15 years.
 
Let’s go ahead and assume it’s yellow.
What little of science I know:
its plastic skin invincible against salt water,
but not the sun–
we can only ask so much.
Will it fade or brown?
What I mean to say is
I would want one of these
for my daughter:
its internal clock set to the mercy of the currents
that have been predictable for centuries,
but mercy is not the word anyone
would choose.
Sometimes not making sense and floating
are the same.
Each wave is its own beginning and ending.
Through international waters,
you could have caused an incident:
no one knowing you,
never reaching the hands that hoped for you.
Rough immigrant, or
free refugee–
floating flagless,
fading border,
stamped with words but not your name.

Related Poems

Immigrant Blues

People have been trying to kill me since I was born,
a man tells his son, trying to explain
the wisdom of learning a second tongue.

It's the same old story from the previous century
about my father and me.

The same old story from yesterday morning
about me and my son.

It's called "Survival Strategies
and the Melancholy of Racial Assimilation."

It's called "Psychological Paradigms of Displaced Persons,"

called "The Child Who'd Rather Play than Study."

Practice until you feel 
the language inside you, says the man. 

But what does he know about inside and outside,
my father who was spared nothing
in spite of the languages he used?

And me, confused about the flesh and soul,
who asked once into a telephone,
Am I inside you? 

You're always inside me, a woman answered, 
at peace with the body's finitude, 
at peace with the soul's disregard
of space and time.

Am I inside you? I asked once 
lying between her legs, confused
about the body and the heart.

If you don't believe you're inside me, you're not,
she answered, at peace with the body's greed,
at peace with the heart's bewilderment.

It's an ancient story from yesterday evening

called "Patterns of Love in Peoples of Diaspora,"

called "Loss of the Homeplace 
and the Defilement of the Beloved,"

called "I Want to Sing but I Don’t Know Any Songs."