Paper Boats

Nicole Stockburger

Every moon is a clapboard ship ready

        to believe in buoyancy

I say to you    Who charted the onyx of sky

         Who tore the veil of water

There is no record of my great-grandfather

No papers signed could condemn

         or confirm passage

Ships nailed together with the blood of men

At the sound of the tap

         I yearn with a thirst deeper than the ocean

We sailed paper boats down the concrete

         slope of Papa’s driveway    Diverted in the hose

its trickling mouth

         one would always be lost in the drain

Because there was no smudge on paper

         Because the birth was recorded only by his mother’s blood

Every ocean is a vast unknowing

         the cradle and the casket

We creased the paper into triangles    folded again

         My brother’s hands were round

like ships drinking the entire ocean

The only Portuguese I know is marinha

         marine or wildlife     Grandmother scolded me

with the tongue of burnished boats    untouched islands

         Cast out her mother’s ocean    with her mother’s ashes

I know no other languages but the names of my dead

Oh ships in full wind

         do not let your sails be ripped from their masts    not yet

How many trees does it take

         to build a boat

How many trees does it take

         to craft the smoothness of paper

My namesake is a string of paper boats all torn in the helm

As much as you trace the waves

         As much as the heart is a buoy    barely floating

I’m writing this to tell you

         someday there is a land just as green as you remember


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