The World

When I learned I could own a piece of The World
I got my chequebook out. Eternal life belongs to those
who live in the present. My wife's bright eye affirmed it.
As do the soothing neutral tones and classic-contemporary
decor of our professionally designed apartments,
private verandahs before which the globe, endlessly
and effortlessly circumnavigated, slips by, allowing residents
no end of exotic ports, a new destination every few days
to explore with a depth we hadn't thought possible.
It's not how things are on The World that is mystical,
not the market and deli, proximity of masseuse
and sommelier, not the gym, our favourite restaurant,
our other favourite restaurant, the yacht club, the library,
the golf pro, the pool, but that it exists at all, a limited
whole, a logic and a feeling. What looks like freedom
is, in fact, the perfection of a plan, and property
a stocktaking laid against us in a measure. The difference
between a thing thought, and done. One can ignore neither
the practical applications nor the philosophical significance
of our onboard jewelry emporium, its $12 million inventory,
natural yellow diamonds from South Africa no one needs,
thus satisfying the criteria for beauty. Without which
there is no life of the mind. What we share, though, transcends
ownership, our self-improvement guaranteed
by the itineraries, licensed experts who prepare us
for each new harbour and beyond, deliver us into the hands
of native companions on The World's perpetual course.
The visual field has no limits. And the eye—
the eye devours. Polar bears, musk oxen, rare thick-billed
murre. We golfed on the tundra and from The World
were airlifted to pristine snowfields, clifftops where we dined
alfresco above frozen seas. The World is the entirety.
The largest ship ever to traverse the Northwest Passage.
How the silent energy coursed between us. Fundamental rules
had changed. Except, with time, it seems a sort of accident—
natural objects combined in states of affairs, their internal properties. Accusatory randomness and proliferation
of types, brutal quantity literally brought to our doors.
Or past them, as if on the OLED high-def screen
of our circumstances, which hides more than it reveals.
For what we see could be other than it is.
Whatever we're able to describe at all could be other
than it is. Such assaults on our finer feelings require an appeal
to order, to the exercise of discipline a private Jacuzzi represents,
from which one might peacefully enjoy the singular euphoria
of the Panama Canal or long-awaited departure
from fetid Venice. There is some truth in solipsism, but I fear
I'm doing it wrong, standing at the rail for ceremonial cast-offs
thunderously accessorized with Vangelis or "Non, je ne regrette rien,"
made irritable by appreciative comments about the light.
In Reykjavík or Cape Town, it's the same. Familiarity
without intimacy is the cost of privacy, security
of a thread count so extravagant its extent can no longer
be detected. Even at capacity, The World is eerily empty:
its crew of highly trained specialists in housekeeping,
maintenance, beauty, and cuisine—the heart and soul
of the endeavour—are largely unseen and likely where the fun is.
We sit at the captain's table but don't know him. He's Italian.
I think on my Clarksville boyhood long before EPS, ROE—
retractable clothesline sunk in concrete, modest backyard
a staging ground for potential we felt infinite to the degree
our parents knew it wasn't. The unknown is where we played.
And while fulfilment of a premeditated outcome
confers a nearly spiritual comfort of indifference
to the time of year, a paradise of fruits always in season,
the span of choice defines its limit, which cannot be exceeded.
The sea rolls over, props on an elbow, and now is heard
the small sound of a daydream running softly aground.
Dissatisfaction, in a Danish sense. On prevailing winds a scent
of compromise; for one tires of the spacewalk outside
what is the case. Beyond immediate luxuries
lives speculation and the tragic impression one is yet
to be born. It could be when all pursuits have been satisfied,
life's problems will remain untouched. But doubt exists only
where questions exist. The World satisfies its own conditions.
It argues for itself. Herein lies an answer.

Karen Solie, "The World" from The Road In Is Not The Same Road Out. Copyright © 2015 by Karen Solie. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. http://us.macmillian.com/fsg
Source: The Road In Is Not The Same Road Out (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2015)
More Poems by Karen Solie