National Poetry Month Day 5: “The Great Wave” by Barbara Jane Reyes


The Great Wave
After Hokusai

First, the sea took the shore. She surged and sucked up the sand and gravel, all the soil and clay. She plucked twisted trees from the earth as if they were turnips. Herons nesting in the reeds, wild deer and hunter, she took them too, washed them down her gullet and belched.

Then she took the roads, pulled them like taffy, tossed trucks and houses like game pieces, dice. She took whole temples into her arms. And then she took back her rivers, swollen beyond their banks until the levees disappeared. She took the farmers’ neat squares of grain, and because she was not satisfied, she took the granaries too.

The fishermen bowed. They gave her rice. Incense was lit.Vessels of the clearest water placed at every altar. She mocked these little vessels, this little water, and she took the barges and boats. With a backhand, she slapped the barges and boats, swatted the captains and fishermen into the underbellies of bridges.

And she looked at the brown soup of concrete chunks, stone blocks, crushed automobiles, bloated livestock, monks, worshipers, field hands, grandmothers, and she was pleased. So she said to the fleeing caravan, run if you like, but recognize. From the sea you came, and to the sea your tiny bodies shall return.


Barbara Jane Reyes

Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of Diwata (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010). She was born in Manila, Philippines, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is the author of two previous collections of poetry, Gravities of Center (Arkipelago Books, 2003) and Poeta en San Francisco (Tinfish Press, 2005), which received the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets.

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →