In Genoa, the city where the Mary Celeste
never arrives every day,
the hour to become a ghost isn’t necessarily noon—

it’s when the young American student named Hemingway
reads, in the plaza,

The Collected Stories of her namesake—

reads the story of the white elephant hills again,

the story of the bickering lovers who say, Please, please, please,

if only they can keep the child out of their words
it will never be born,

the hills along the Ebro
like skin through a fire-screen of trees.


Our itinerary claims
a stop    a stop    a return—

it’s the vessels we have to trust,
the vessels always blameless,

like the Mary Celeste, amber alcohol
lozenges cached below deck,

its investigators whose verdict said
mutiny, fever ship


Please, please, please, we’ve said to each other,
please: stop the tiff,
prolong the delirious thrust,

your carry-on you forgot at the Nice railway
must be in Firenze now.

Somewhere on the train here,
the languages changed and the ocean changed its sex.

I think you want me to be
a character from another story,
someone who goes missing
and can be suitably mourned,

but the hills in Genoa look too
green to be elephants—

it’s like Papa’s writing this
in the wrong universe,

no child to argue about,

and the future, as always, a ghost ship,

we can board it only
when we’ve shed some mutinous skins,
La mer becoming il mare

Michael Tyrell is the author of the poetry collection The Wanted. His poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including The Best American Poetry 2015 and The Traveler’s Vade Mecum (Helen Klein Ross, editor; Ren Hen Press, 2016). He teaches writing in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.