My Ulysses(s)
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My Ulysses(s)

Come, my friends, / ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ulysses

If you must know anything, know that the hardest thing is to live only once.A woman on a ship becomes a life raft—no matter how beautiful. The sea.The sea swelled and dipped beneath us—as if breathing. He walked up behindme, and with his tongue, placed a word on the nape of my neck. But it meltedinto a bead of whiskey—trailing down my back. We were sailing for months.Salt in our ears. We were sailing for months but the edge of the earth wasnowhere in sight.

When we left it, the city was still smoldering. Otherwise it was a fine springday. The sky was blue and the pigeons went on pecking at bits of bread scat-tered from the bombed bakery. Gutted cars. A carousel spinning its blackenedhorses. Ash rose from the plazas until the light broke it to pieces. He said itwas like the shadow of God’s fingertips playing an air piano above the city.He said there is so much I need to tell you.

A browning sun about to drown. A knife on the deck left out to dry. He takesthe bullet salvaged from a sawed M-16, carves another day into the mast. I amasleep inside one of the white rowboats. I am dreaming of our honeymoon.He is standing on a sunlit balcony, looking over the city. I could feel, throughthe floorboards, that someone was playing the grand piano downstairs —but the music doesn’t enter the room. He turns to me. His mouth opens andcloses like a man trying to sing a song only the listener knows. I listen andhear only our heartbeats: a hundred hooves galloping on a wooden bridge —going nowhere. [End Page 8]

Stars. Or simply the drain-holes of heaven—waiting. A yellow pool of vomitincreasing from the side of his face. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I wantedto be a teacher. I wanted to be good. I can’t write my own name, my date ofbirth. So much water. My feet in the eddies. He crouches beside me.The moon reflected black on his face. I watch him cup a handful of the seainto my hair and wring it out. The smallest pearls. If we survive, he says, I willname our son after this water. I will learn how to love a monster. He smiles.A white hyphen where his mouth should be. There are seagulls above us.There are hands fluttering between the constellations. They are trying to hold on.

The fog lifts. And we see it. The horizon—suddenly gone. An aqua sheen lead-ing to the hard drop. Clean and merciful—just like he wanted. Just like thefairy tales. The one where the book closes and turns to laughter in your hands.I pull the mast to full sail. I am wearing a wedding dress made from barnaclesand seashell sequins. I am a woman whose belly grows heavy with a life raft.The wind chips away at his beard as he throws my name into the air. Lan! Lan!Lan! Why does it keep crumbling into stones across the deck?

Furious roar. The sea splitting at the bow. He watches it open like a thiefstaring into his own heart: all bones and splintered wood. Waves rising onboth sides. The ship encased in liquid walls. He says Look! I see it now! He’sjumping up and down. He’s kissing the back of my hand as he clutches thewheel, shaking. He laughs but his eyes betray him. He laughs despite knowinghe has ruined every beautiful thing just to prove beauty cannot change him.But here’s the kicker: there’s a cork where the sunset should be. It was alwaysthere. There’s a ship made from toothpicks and Super Glue. There’s a ship in awine bottle on the mantel in the middle of a Christmas party—eggnog spil-ling from...