At Sea - Elaine Dai

« He is the wisest man. »

my mother whispered to me as

she dipped her fingers through my hair and

pressed the lotus leaf wrap in my hands.


« You must learn. »

she said as she pushed off my raft

leaving me to float in oblivion searching

for this man of wisdom.


So I sat and watched the darkness around me,

cupping my offering either to retain what meager warmth it offered or

hold on to a piece of the real world

I can’t say.


I waited and stared

and when the mist rolled out of sight I paddled to a faint silhouette resembling a man onlt to grasp air

feeling the slight wisps against my wet palms.


I tried Fate to see whether he would conjure himself so

my search would not be a search in vain

though only quiet beauty greeted me.


Neither approach led me to

this man of wisdom so

I pondered on my raft

left to sit and stare.


At length a voice broke in, and behold, it was he,

emerging from the mist on a raft of his own,

gray eyes twinkling, thin beard trailing

and I held up my meager offering, arms suspended across the water, begging for enlightenment.


He reached an arm to mine

remarking « The wind blows, the sky is blue. Time continues, yet these remain the same. »


He left, shrouded in obscurity

leaving me shrouded in the coiling mists, floating on my raft pondering his words

never again to venture from the islet of my mind.


He never returned.

I began to wonder whether he was only an illusion

a figure conjured from the depths of my mind to

penetrate my reality because there was truth in his word.


People began to come, offerings ready in their hands;

youngsters sit on rafts of their own, waiting for me to emerge with small beard trailing, bright eyes shining

to break their silence, leave them to sit and stare

trying Fate and searching, always searching, for truth

and watch the mist roll about the water and grasp air

holding on to a piece of the real world

so one day they too could press an offering into their

child’s hands and whisper

« You must learn. »


And it dawned that I had become he

the new man of wisdom

the one to shatter the realities of others

if only to become an illusion after