May 2021

In from preterrainCraig Santos Perez, a Chamoru (Chamorro) poet from the island of Guåhan/Guam writes –

    i imagine ‘surfacing’
    where lines end
    ‘tell even us’ what does ‘driftwood’ know about geography

Like the barge pole and the thousand logs and
the damar resin from dipterocarp trees inland that falls into rivers and washes up on beaches
- relentless transitions of state between forest tree and sea. Rumah ikan is a mangrove forest transformed and sunken, a mangrove reimagined as a fish house, each element in its place – of smell, of movement light sound, of potential worlds. Rumah ikan is an experiment, trial and error making ephemeral houses for fish. Is inevitable driftwood that navigates currents to land on beaches or travel further afield.

Can it reach the Natunas, I ask?
Not that far, says Pak Uning.

A ghost of a tree. An intervention in the sea, a space of congregation, gathering alam - fish, dolphins, benthic species, Pak Uning and his friends, and at a distance, me and you - everything circling rumah ikan. Between March and July, ikan merah disappear deeper into the sea, inaccessible. The dolphins travel through from a northeasterly direction, the same direction as the monsoon, racing boats, that’s why they’re called ikan lumba-lumba (racing fish), says Pak Uning. And Gajah Mina, the sea elephant, who makes her way at king tide from Indonesia to eat pandan shoots from the rocks at the cape, and becomes entangled in pukut hanyut driftnets along the way, spooking fish and fishermen. 

(from his collection from unincorporated territory [saina], where words as islands and driftwood stretch across oceanic pages)5