Every Ship Gets to Be a Submarine Once

“Ships in the Desert” and "The Waterer," two poems by Siew David Hii

Tree submerged in lake

Every Ship Gets to Be a Submarine Once

Ships in the Desert

For Joe and Jake

As a child, I never understood why forty years in the desert was God’s punishment for his chosen people. A three-hour hike through Joshua trees changed me. Everything here wants to kill you, he said. I like that. Desert lavender, dry riverbeds, jumbo rock piles. They don’t need us. The yuccas, the pancake pear cactus, the aggressive honeybees just want their water, and they don’t need much of it. Truth is, the desert has more plants than we thought. We sail the ocean tomorrow, to see the sun sink directly into the waters of the Pacific, to feel ocean wind on bare skin, to smell salt. These are different ways of saying the same thing. Every ship gets to be a submarine once.

The Waterer

It’s a short slip

into the tsunami of the past. 
Past the wishing wells 

			and the restaurants and the church formulas 
that never quite added up to release. 

I would protect the fig tree outside of my first school. 

A galaxy of sharp branches 
	and honey-like liqueur from fruit
that has begun to leak from its base. 

Honestly, I’m happy to sacrifice 

	the space necessary

for such a memory, especially when most are catch and release. 

Incandescent glow on my brother’s lips 
		as he raised a fig to a cry of no tomorrow! 

and was grown and underway with the U.S. Navy, 
sailing the world in a submarine that operated 

on caffeine and epinephrine, 
	before the cataracts of goodbye 

blinded us to the water.

[And the fig he had held between his thumb and forefinger 
Like a stupid cigar dropped to the ground.]

To the weight of the water. 
		To the idea that Adam and Eve 
were seduced by figs, not apples. 

		To water a fig tree is the best armor

for the past, and if you know 

what you’re doing, sometimes, a plastic watering can will hold an ocean. 

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