"In Antigua I am famous. I am bathed in jasmine
and pressed with warm stones."
—Carnival Cruise ad in The New Yorker
In Albuquerque, on the other hand, I am infamous; children
throw stones and the elderly whisper behind their hands.
In Juneau, I am glacial, a cool blue where anyone can bathe
for a price. In Rio I am neither exalted nor defamed; I walk
the streets and nothing makes sense, voices garbled, something
about electricity, something about peonies and cheap wool.
In Prague I am as fabulous as Napoleon and everyone
knows it. They give me a horse and I tell them this horse
will be buried with me, I tell them I will call the horse either
Andromeda or Murphy and all applaud wildly. In Montreal
I am paler than I am in Toronto. In Istanbul I trip over cracks
in the sidewalk and no one rushes to take my elbow, to say
Miss or brew strong tea for a poultice. In Sydney they talk
about my arrival for days. I sit outside the opera house
waiting for miracles, and when none occur in a fortnight
it's Ecuador, where the old gods include the small scythes
of my fingernails in their rituals and I learn that anything
can ferment, given opportunity, given terra cotta. In Paris
I'm up all night. Off the Gold Coast, I marry a reverend
who swears that pelicans are god's birds and numbers them
fervently, meanwhile whistling. Near Bucharest I go all
invisible, also clammy, also way more earnest than I ever was
in Memphis. For three Sundays I wander skinny side streets
saying amphora, amphora.
From We Do Not Eat Our Hearts Alone, © 2005 by Kerri Webster. Published by the University of Georgia Press and used by permission.