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I agree that it is puzzling given the information we have. In my experience, it looks exactly like the poly has partly dissolved and "pulled" the underlying stain. We can't be sure why. If it was an fully cured oil base stain with a water based poly (I guess it's OK, but I wouldn't do it) then I wouldn't expect it to happen. I have had it happen when using oil based poly applied with a brush. I have learned to apply a light spray coat of shellac (spray can) over my stain before applying oil based poly. I have only sprayed water based poly. So can't comment there.
Are you sure it was a water based poly you used and not oil?
In any case, your alternatives now are to either live with it or re-do.
 
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