PELABUHANRATU: HARBOR OF THE PRINCESS -- GODDESS OF THE SEA

Marek Lugowski


five unnerving hours bopping on down java from jakarta
on a ribbon of gray crumbling worn out and narrow.

warungs -- small makeshift stalls -- line it -- and houses
mosques garbage dumps rice fields towns and groves. a few
frightening mountain curve views. a ribbon thick with people
lined with throngs of red and white-clad immaculate children
back from school at eleven. gorgeous girls and women.

the road is stuffed market-crazy with darting minibuses
that teem as the regional transit. road-extorting trucks.
kamikaze motorcycles. fuming improbably tall green buses.

people people everywhere -- and bottled coca cola in crates.

at long last -- a fishing port a beach a tourist trap:
pelabuhanratu. the local folklore says the vicious surf
of this indian ocean bay stalked by a killer undertow
exactly on this beach in disconcertingly lulling warm water
reflects the deadly goings-on of a certain goddess.

oh, do not wear green at sea here or on this beach. it is
her favorite color. a few souls drown swimming here
every year. a few years back -- the bulgarian ambassador.

local people say the goddess is malicious and greedy and
always wants more. there is a hotel in pelabuhanratu
which always keeps an empty room. for the goddess.

up to my thighs in the indian ocean on a black sand beach.
the pull of the water the pull. the pull of the water...

later -- lost on a monsoon mountain road where everything
but the goats squawks green -- the sky heaves graygreen --
where a huge banana leaf serves as an umbrella to a soaked
to skin goatherd:

isn't it isn't it just like a woman? to come ashore to
soak the store to bleed the bled-red earth to swell with
mud the gorgons gorging the snakes that river -- what so
doublefistedly tumble on down to her crashing old-green
abode on land embraced by the cloud-flicker of the obliquely
seen young-green rice paddies?

isn't it just like. to set the motorbikers aside to stand
still under the porous trees. isn't it isn't it just like
a woman? here she is here. here she is. where the rice
shouts take me! twice thrice a year where the tea grows
strong and bitter where the mango groves stand lush whose
mangos nearly turn brown sweeter than sweet and where
every other tree yes almost every other aspires to the bat
colonies of the sleeping goldening bananas?

where the slender-legged notched like sugar maples rubber
trees (their ancestors once smuggled out from brazil) stand
demure in airy groves fetted in carpets of green grass.
where there's even coffee?

isn't it isn't it just like a sea goddess on a java
land outing. once hers was a big forest once hers was
a thicker green. the java rhino roamed here. now some
50 altogether remain -- a short drive to the coastal west.
that java almost gone. that java western-cornered.

cool air lowers my window all the way. we pass a treed
white mosque bulbous of tower. at six o'clock the prayer
call laments scenting the rich and dimming streak of the
twilight hour.

adorned by a warm incadescent a cool fluorescent, a boy
on a stool softens the air with an acoustic guitar.

selamat jalan, may your going be blessed, waves us on
a roadsign.

Copyright CrossConnect, Inc. 1996

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