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Beyond the Sea, Before the Stars By Jonathan Ing

Maybe Once There Were No Rules It was in this very classroom, with the same grey paint chipping off the four walls and ceiling, with the same blue-black checkered carpet, with the same musty stain which would wreak rotten stenches that were stagnant, spoiled, and milky way back, even to the last row of this auditorium. Two seats from the exit, my name is still visible from when I carved it, where I sat, 20 years ago. 20 years ago, When the magic and mysteries of natural laws, like gravity or entropy, were dissected, inspected, and disemboweled by projections on the forward screen with mathematical scalpels rendering flesh, removing bones; remaining, bare, were the lifeless equations.

—Mutiny Captain, you can only blame your lack of scrutiny. For all we know, we are in the center of the sea. Drifting along with the heated currents of the equator, as the sun beats down on the broken backs and mangled hands of our skeleton crew. Long before the storm came to pass judgment and invoke its wraith, bringing down our mast, killing your last first mate, I warned you. But locked away in the Captain’s Cabin, you refused to smell the salt, burning like brimstone, or feel the warm warning waters that bubbled and boiled. Now your salt, dripping on the splintered planks, is not the same as the sweat from our charred skin, that creeks and cracks under the cooling of night, because the drops from your brow tastes of fear. Look, the cauldron is steaming, and the crew is teeming. Together we are all driven by fumes that hunger has fed. Up you go, into the stew. Captain, you can only blame your lack of scrutiny for bringing about this—

If Icarus Had a Kite

Black clouds bloom over the horizon, and with the grievous storm, the enticing wind comes rolling in. Every year I come here with my kite, from my home, further north in Athens, to sit on the edge of this cliff in Zimos, overlooking the Aegean Sea. On this cliff there were two trees, but only one remains. They stood tall and proud and protected me with shade. There my father gave me this kite and there was where I played. The worn and fractured frail frame is wrapped in sheets of cracks and rips that are just as grey as the sky. The colors once were bright and alive, but now have faded along with the kite’s younger days. I still remember when my father said, “Watch as the wind lifts those wooden bones and paper skin among the clouds. It drifts and rises beside the sun to shield you from searing light, so be careful where you run. And do not fly to high. Though tethered to you by a string, you can lose your shield to the sky.” As I ran past the trees, too close to the edge, I slipped from the moist morning grass

but held on to the ledge. My father went to lift me up, and he fell in my stead.

The Lune Blooms and Withers Every Night

It was during the bloom of the Lunes that I first met your husband. That’s what we called them, much nicer than Ipomoea alba, the real name. I was walking, alone, on a beach shaped like a crescent, half the size of the iron hull ship that brought me there. It was almost midnight when I began to move along the shore. I saw something shimmer, sticking out of the sand. When I approached it, I found a uniform beside a M1 rifle. The wood frame was crusted over with salt and sand, but the barrel of the gun would still shine. I did not mean to stare at his naked body bathing in the ocean. I remember that his hair smelled of seaweed when he ran past me. The mist from crashing waves of the green water sprinkled fiery salt into my eyes. By the time I finished rubbing my face he had already left. I went to see the Lunes, sprouts sparsely spread across the sand. The flower looks like a finger that had been twisted, and only opens in the moonlight. The petals contort and peel back, like fingernails being ripped off. It first resembles a star, then it trumpets out. In full bloom they are as pure white as the moon. We did not talk about that night until we were deployed to the same unit. But even then, I don’t think he knows it was me. He never asked about it, and I wasn’t going to tell him We left the southern coast of Normandy towards Paris. The next time we were alone together was a week after we liberated Paris. We were stuck in a dirt trench, one long grave from The War to End All Wars. The three days of rain caused mud to spill

through the rotten wood braces. We were trapped in a cement bunker that was underground. The grey walls never even cracked, I checked each time the dust settled. To pass time, we would try to guess whether sounds above us were a thunderstorm or a downpour of artillery shelling. Two days after we ran out of food, your husband caught a couple rats. He cooked them and told me they didn’t taste too bad. Mine was black, the size of a grenade, and still had its’ eyes. I never thought I would prefer the taste of dirt. A week passed and we didn’t suffocate, I had already seen all his pictures of you and your son and showed him my girl back home. We even read each other’s Final Letter to make sure there were no spelling mistakes; I didn’t think anyone would even be able to find it under all this mess. I started to dig through the mud wall that encased the stairway up with my bare hands. We didn’t waste any of the boiled water washing ourselves; we were soaked from head to toe in a mixture of pitch colored mud. It took days of burrowing and we used all the wood we could find on purifying our collected water. We huddled together for warmth. The nights were cold in that grey mud sputtered box. When we got out of that pit our battalion was ready to move to the border of Germany. We had suffered heavy losses. The first thing I saw when we reached the surface was our leader, Captain Fuller, half submerged into the floor of the trench. There were still some rats picking away at his chest. Your husband was promoted the very next day to take Fuller’s command. We were both offered the opportunity to return home, but your husband decided to stay. I told him it would be nice

to go home and take a bath. He said he didn’t need it anymore. All he asked, was that I deliver his Final Letter to you.

There Were No Words During the sun’s ascent, I sat on lone sea breakers and studied the ships that came to port, looked for worn wood dried out in the sun, assist quartermasters in collecting supplies, just to speak to the explorers in the Queen’s Navy. Until, finally, an ancient mariner took me under his wing. Any ship hand that has grey hair, a long beard, and all his limbs was a man of experience. Even if he bathed he would still smell of sea salt, Unless he had been drinking enough to pour a whole bottle of rum on himself. But he always smelled like a wet dog and salt. But he did tell me everything to become a captain, as well as what mistakes not to make through stories he kept like burdens around his neck, as if they were a necklace. He taught me skills to hone, tying and untying knots, step by step. The last words he told me were, “You must also savor the journey, not just the accomplishment.” I plan to stay the course. Only a captain could earn her respect. Before the sun would set, I would pace outside her door, like a ship with a broken rudder, going in circles. My thoughts were a tempest, racing through the paths I could follow. I felt less trepidation in front of Her Majesty when she granted me a ship. I stopped rocking back and forth and knocked on her door. She answered before my arm was back at my side. She accepted my invitation to the ball in my honor, and already had a dress for the celebration. At dusk, as the sunlight receded like golden sand eroded by the encroaching waves of night. The musicians began to play as guests began to waltz. I swept her up, out of her chair, and on to the center of the ballroom’s dance floor.

I cannot recall any of the songs performed. I was busy counting my steps. One, two, three; one, two, three; and one, two, three. Her sky blue dress stood out like the North Star. Her hand in mine, we left late in the night. While walking her home we strayed from the path; she invited me in on her doorstep. I was in between two clashing waves of rules and had to choose what to follow. But before I picked my course, she pulled me by the arm. Like a whirlpool, I was sucked into her house, up her stairs, and into her bedroom. I watched the sun ascend as I plotted my next course.

Beyond the Sea, Before the Stars  

Prose Poetry