Ahab the untangled lifeline. Ahab the span of the daylight moon. Ahab the miles I walked to reach the sea. Ahab wading beside me in stone cold surf. The beach peeling to expose the bone beneath, the bone-white cold of the daylight moon. Ahab muttering in Spanish, German, Inuit, Mandarin. He licks his lips, licks his beard as the words drool, speckling the foam about our knees. The sea growls a gray-green warning. Ahab doesn’t care that the maps no longer show his route around the world. He can still set a sail as taut as his muscles. He asks if I’ll be shipping out with him. The dead voyage. Can I still avoid signing the ship’s articles although I boarded many years ago? The silence of winter stars as the ship approaches the line. Then the Southern Cross looming with its brittle fissions. Ahab has circled the globe a thousand times since the bible named him after an emptiness nothing could fill. He looks at the ebb bubbling around us and asks how deep the deepest part of the Atlantic is. Three miles? Five miles? Not as deep as the Pacific, which plummets seven miles down; but greener, angrier. He already feels the pressure of tremendous depth. The weight of his conscience equals the weight of the water he will drink in the drownings to come.
A tree sneezes deep in the forest. Although it rhymes with “freeze,” no one would mistake it for an expression of the stone-hard snow lying knee-deep. I’ve never been that innocent, not since in childhood I saw the trees in our woodlot make faces that kept me awake all night. I’m out on this bitter, brittle day counting and examining the holes in the ice. Every brook in the area features pools that ice over except for an oculus, an eye to the heavens. I don’t know how many, if any, of my neighbors have leapt or fallen into these black spots on the map. But every winter the town appoints several inspectors to scout the local depths and recover any bodies that need recovering. I hold that position for my neighborhood, have held it for several years. I’ve found only a few bodies, but each was sodden as a corncob after a clambake. As far as I know, someone buried them decently. Although I’m not sure what would constitute an indecent burial. The tree sneezes again, trying to distract me from my task. The ice-holes gaze into a distance I can’t apprehend. I try not to look too deeply, although these holes are usually quite shallow. One has to lie face-down and deliberately drown one’s self. I can see the advantage of doing so, but I’d rather not risk the regret.
By William Doreski