Ocean Hearted: A Poem For My Mother on Her Birthday

I’ve been thinking a lot about what “home” means
these days. When I’m stranded between oceans in
the middle of an always-changing land mass, it’s
hard to ever feel like I’m on steady ground.

Then, I remember that perhaps I have always felt
most at home when out at sea because swimming
in the ocean of your body was my first taste of
unconditional love. You are a constellation always
in movement. From rural-island rice paddies to
smog filled metropolises across countless countries
to find home at the top of a Los Angeles hill. I know
the old house isn’t there anymore but you made sure
that we learned the secrets of hidden honeysuckle taste,
the magic of turning tiny kalamansis to sweet nectar
and the joy of turning hard rock-filled dirt into magic gardens
that stayed in our skin and under our fingernails long after
any physical foundation. You showed us that places have
magic, and knowledge, and stories. We never forgot them.

And I know, you don’t really know how to swim, but
I don’t know if you see that you are still my ocean-hearted mother.
Your love is boundless and sweeping, the
tide of your mind forever following the moon of some new
adventure, the way you will spread your waves to hold
up whatever crazy dreams we have been floating on your current.

Now, you are beginning to run and you tell people that
you are trying to become a version of me and I don’t
have a word that tells you the mix of pride, honor, joy,
love that it makes me feel, but what I’ve never
been able to tell you that the miles I have pounded
under my feet were only because I was trying to teach
my body the persistence your mind and spirit always showed us.
I am trying to be a small manifestation of your strength.
Like the roses forever in bloom around our front door, the
flowers of my triumphs are measured in your tending and work.

You are never satisfied. Not in the stereotyped tiger-mom
way, but in your unquenchable search for
joy. You are the nectarines from a tree flowering in dirt
we were told could never bear fruit. Your smile is round
and full like moon when everything is bright, glowing, and touched
with magic. You are the giggling splashes against Diamond Head beach,
you are the roaring sea sprays as you accept new lava at the
heart of a volcano, you are the calm healing of Waimanalo bay
as the wind moves through pine trees. See, as I have used the water
of this island to heal myself, I see now all I was doing was taking this place
and learning to love myself the way you love me. You love the way the ocean loves
the creatures in it: it is so encompassing that it becomes as certain as the air I breathe each day.

While we are often separated by the Pacific, I see now that, like a turtle in the sea,
I could swim anywhere and home will always been the ocean of your love.

So now, as you begin another revolution around the sun all I can do is watch
are your horizons manifest and shine light like the sea at sunrise. All I
want to do is bask in the way your make everything brighter as you
reflect the sun’s first kiss of the sky. All I can do is try and reflect the kind of
love you showed me: one that is as certain as the sunrise and that is
as big as entire ocean itself.

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