And the ship sails on

E la nave va

Several transparencies later into the past, he realizes what he had been witnessing, or imagining, were ghosts: gorgeous, floating, nostalgia-ridden wonders rippling like old curtains before half-open windows.

“Do you see the bay, the sand?” she murmured.

She stepped aside from the curtains to show the outline of her figure, barely traced by so much diffused light.  God she was beautiful, beautiful; or were these words simply the echo of water lapping against the shores of the bay?  Her costume was turn-of-the-century ivory cotton, lace gloves, a straw hat, an amethyst ring on the third finger of her left hand.

“We have always been the same person,” she said.

She was holding a book too thin to be a bible, perhaps a Collected Verse she had brought along from the other world to read in the park.  No picture could compete with her.  She glowed.  Then she began to move, without the least ruffle or scuffle of shoe sole.  She crossed her right hand to her left shoulder to draw her shawl more tightly over her.  She moved hesitantly and gently.  He feared she was tired from some physical distress; he opened his mouth to speak but no sound came out.  She smiled as if to say, “I understand.  This is your dream.  Really I’m alright.”  She tread lightly around the room, her face drawn always toward the window so that all he could see was her serene profile.  Every once in a while she would turn to smile at him, even though neither of them were really there.  She had possibly been very ill in her life and suffered greatly—he could see that.  “Really I’m alright.”

Her hair under the hat framed her face in dark auburn waves, twisting to collect themselves toward the back of her head, where a glimmer of tortoise shell held it all in place.  For a moment that piece of tortoise shell was the single pin holding the entire universe together.  Had it disappeared the entire dream would have fallen apart as her hair unraveled to cover everything in darkness.  A goddess?  Certainly, as only such beauty could pause for such a moment.

—19 October 1988

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