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Where the Gods Live

University of Florida Institutional Repository

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WHERE THE GODS LIVE By CORTNEY MICHELLE GRUBBS A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF FINE ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2004

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Copyright 2004 by Cortney Michelle Grubbs

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This collection of poetry is dedicated to the intellectually stimulating and constant radiance of: Lisa; Erica; Idoia; and my family, Roger, Debra, and Meagan.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This collection of poetry exists thanks to the passion for language encouraged by the talented and patient poets: Sidney Wade, William Logan, Debora Greger, Michael Hofmann, and Terry Thaxton. I thank especially Sidney Wade, my thesis director, an inspirational muse whose support and keen criticism for everything I wrote created a marvelous journey through words. And humble thanks go to my committee members, Marsha Bryant and William Logan, for their enthusiasm and appreciation for the written word. I am in the thralls of gratitude as a result of the innumerable kindnesses and indulgence of my quirky sense of literary criticism from Pamela Gilbert, Marsha Bryant, Brandon Kershner, and Lisa Logan. And, my pseudo-sanity performance was maintained by the brilliance and love of Idoia Gorosabels admiration for spirits and the Polaroid; Lisa Cases zeal for discussion and search for chocolate; Erica Dixs gentle domesticity; Jessica and J.C.s extraordinary hospitality; Joel Adamss and Aaron Talbots sense of style intermingled with a devastating intellect; Kevin Wilsons willingness to allow me to read alongside of him (twice) at Goerings; Harun Thomass, Sid Dobrins, and Michael Pearles pedagogical support; my parents, Roger and Debra, and my sister Meagan, for their unwavering confidence in me; the entire poetry group at University of Florida; and Goerings Book Store. iv

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TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ...............................................................................................iv ABSTRACT ......................................................................................................................vii WHERE THE GODS LIVE .................................................................................................1 VAGUE MORNINGS IN A SLEEPLESS HOUSE ............................................................2 SONG ...................................................................................................................................3 AFTER THE PARTY ..........................................................................................................4 WET DIRT AND A ROSE TATTOO .................................................................................5 SILENT ................................................................................................................................6 LIVING ALONE IN FEBRUARY ......................................................................................7 ONE-HANDED APPLAUSE ..............................................................................................8 AN AMERICAN DINNER, 1986 .......................................................................................9 AFTER A NIGHT OF BINGE-DRINKING ON MAIN ST. ............................................10 NOVEMBER BURIAL .....................................................................................................11 TO GRANDMOTHER, AN UNSENT LETTER ..............................................................12 SAYING YES ....................................................................................................................14 LOVE-BUGS ON PARADE .............................................................................................15 BLUE WHALE ..................................................................................................................16 STILL THE WRONG AGE ...............................................................................................17 INSOMNIA ........................................................................................................................18 BUFFERS ..........................................................................................................................19 v

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MISTAKE ..........................................................................................................................20 THE RETURN ...................................................................................................................21 TUMPT ..............................................................................................................................22 AROUND A BACKYARD FIRE AT A FRIENDS HOUSE ON NEW YEARS DAY 23 SURVIVING LEUKEMIA ................................................................................................24 MAKING LOVE UPSTAIRS ............................................................................................25 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............................................................................................26 vi

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Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts WHERE THE GODS LIVE By Cortney Michelle Grubbs May 2004 Chair: Sidney Wade Major Department: English The author should offer the following cautionary criticism and summary: Ms Grubbs strives too hard to breech the boundaries between poetry and prose, slightly falling limp on the former, albeit her voice one of memorable confessional haziness; should you abhor one of her poems, I fear you should like none of them because in her detrimental attempts to inflate juvenile seconds, she has made the poems a female bird, large and without color. On a celebratory note: each poem serves as a translation of a moment, intrinsically interwoven with the past and present, subconscious and conscious, anticipation and stasis. Amidst the spaces is the magical quality of poetry and another space where the readers gods, in whatever form they take in memory and sensation, will emerge and breathe. Influences of the collection of poetry include (with no negative reflections on the authors with regards to the flaws of this volume): Kim Addonizio; Jane Austen; John Berryman; Donald Hall; Michael Hofmann; Marie Howe; James Joyce; Robert Lowell; Paul Muldoon; Flannery OConner; Rainer Maria Rilke; Anne Sexton; Sidney Wade; and Oscar Wilde. vii

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WHERE THE GODS LIVE Chevys are curb-sided mutts at the local diner, and locals push cold potatoes with syrupy tea around in their jaws. Gathering on these streets of bubble gum wrappers and dried spit, smutty shadows call after each other and offer carbon monoxide to the stars. Waitresses break out their mops and Elvis sweeps his cloak over the sky. 1

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VAGUE MORNINGS IN A SLEEPLESS HOUSE The cruel window mocks me with another shade of pink in the sky. Dew, heavy on the grass, frees the world from silence. Your body still hangs onto sleep like a lovely childs while the ducks flap their wings against the water. My face pressed against your chest, I mimic your breathing, trying to sleep against the sound of beating wings. 2

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SONG Darling Virginia, the mums refuse to survive. Watering, coaxing, sunlight: all you left in the bucket at the stream eats a hole in the soil. The waterlogged daisies threaten to rot the lap of the porch, and the water lilies sing of you, swimming in the river, a mermaids sonata. 3

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AFTER THE PARTY The flasks are empty and the house smells of sweet rain from the kitchen window; your slight chest rises in regular patterns and I slink from bed to porch like a thief to pace on planks of wood around the hanging Magnolia limbs. I want to shake the sleep violently from your eyes so that I can unveil this world: clean and suspiciously green. 4

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WET DIRT AND A ROSE TATTOO He picked up odd jobs, like mowing lawns and replacing Aunt Florences light bulb in the den (even though her husband could do it) and would hand Uncle Jerry a few extra dollars when her husband wasnt around. Poor Uncle Jerry: the pity of the town, running errands for relatives during the day while worrying about his beloved wife and rubbing her hands during the night, perhaps tired and vacant-eyed, searching for the rose tattoo between her thumb and index finger that had long been removed during chemotherapy. At her funeral, he walked around the cemetery, the mound still fresh, told family, I hope we meet soon. As customary, we kept our promise in the same church. He made a year without her and then his heart exploded (yes, literally), as the Shotts boys before him. Mother said it was because of love; he answered his wifes call from Heaventhats what the preacher said. And so the wreaths were hung at the front of the church with Brenda (not God) inscribed on the pink plastic telephone and a yellow telephone for Uncle Jerrys Answering. His face was weirdly still in the casket, closed off, then disappeared. And finally, we all evaporated again. 5

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SILENT after Paul Muldoons Kissing and Telling He would shift his shoulders and shuffle as if he were studying the entirety of his being through that shuffle. Hed flick his pipe ash against the wall and ash would fly and stick on his trousers. If he looked out the corner of his eye, you knew you had to be Someone. Humming Truckin, hed wash his paint brushes, caked but clean, while you dug his paintings. He would say that hes only a translator, not an artist, tighten his neck as if you had already offered a compliment and then retract his gaze as if presupposing was a mistake. Somehow he was the wrong age, a boy, too eager and shrouded in uncertainty, hesitant to show you the bathroom. Bewitched by mind-readers but scared you could see he hadnt painted for years, he nestled into cadmiums and umbers and coddled his art, a silent prayer for disclosure. 6

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LIVING ALONE IN FEBRUARY This house holds the grammar of emptiness. Upstairs, the same boards creak by the bed, but its just the cat, now orange-shaped and paw-heavy. Its cold outside; the new pansies look soggy. Snuggled in the blanket of sky, the moon, a cruel creature and flat as a paper plate, holds your face. I wonder if you have a new lover across town and if she sleeps. I separate your tattered copy of Ulysses from my Pride and Prejudice. Why isnt it snowing yet? 7

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ONE-HANDED APPLAUSE How picturesque: the iron skillets coquettish waves of heat kiss my hand instead of the oven mitt. How quaint! My hand, swollen stiff. Mother bone shrinks from her own flesh like a witch. Confess: you crave adoration, not aloe or gauze. Breathe, you selfish life-imprint; heres a stale peppermint. 8

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AN AMERICAN DINNER, 1986 Mother walks away from the stove as if for a moment to talk on the phone. Outside, the dogs aren=t barking. The TV, no sound, glows with some war or other. Singing and burning in the oven, the rolls, a choir. I say nothing, am nothing, like the rain and sun sinking into the lake behind our house. At dinner, Father asks God to forgive our sins and bless the food. Mother passes the basket of black-topped rolls. 9

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AFTER A NIGHT OF BINGE-DRINKING ON MAIN ST. I sit in time-out at the local laundromat next to a girl with lizard tattoos sprawled across her biceps and Bobby on her breast pocket. We wait for our one-load shirts and towels to cook clean. I smile at the comic book straddled above her cherry-leather boots. Studying comics? I ask. No, she answers, I just like it. She drifts out and a boy skirts in with Jesus sandals and khaki shorts, and begins sorting: fuchsia shorts, pink and white bras, tee-tops, and funny pink baby pajamas the size of a butterfly in a museum exhibit. 10

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NOVEMBER BURIAL The smell, thats how we always know. And Granddaddy puts on his gloves and John Deere cap and I sandwich my feet in one of the flat spaces behind the cabin of the bulldozer. Hold on, Doll, he yells over the rumbling of a cold engine. Groaning, the bulldozer pushes through the thick clay and lifts the massive carcass in the air, like a fish rising out of water. Shifting the hard black gears, he lets her down and shoves her body into the scum-filled creek. You can never tell which calves were hers. The herd has moved on, their warm breaths signaling in the mist. 11

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TO GRANDMOTHER, AN UNSENT LETTER I think it=s sort of a pill, not enough, but just adequate to get through one session of therapy. This letter is supposed to serve as confessional redemption, some unburdening of my subconscious. You aren=t dead. What should I see after this scraping off of you?C you not cutting my hair while I slept, and me, silly and ten, waking on the floor, chased around the kitchen at three in the morning by the imagination?C me, now pinches over twenty, startled awake at night and still stumbling towards the you-that=s-not-there? You seem hard as candy, far away as Halloween during January. Understand? Why are you still eating my memory? Please stop sending cards for Christmas, and every once in a while, for birthdays. 12

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13 You beg for more than my pen can sketch on flat paper. My postageC I want it reimbursed. I almost want you gone.

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SAYING YES This kitchen holds anger better than silverware: Youre angry because I turned off the evening television; Im angry that I dont care if you help me with dinner. We fuck, our clothes halfway on, crooked, like teenagers. And this violence, by the celery soup, is the closest that Ive been to saying Yes. 14

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LOVE-BUGS ON PARADE Like e-mails from friends and lovers and friend-lovers, coupling, like squirrels around a grapefruit, as if begging for a more-or-less twitch from us in the car, hunched, love-bugs twirl in tufts of air like two tiny kites= tangled frames released by a curious child. At every hour they appear, a refreshed basketful: bands of orange and cupcake-yellow around the abdomen; bean-snap-shaped wings; stenciled-in legs, as if an after-thought. They wait for the forget-me flutter of my hand and then, flying out the window, splatter onto cars. 15

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BLUE WHALE Limp and trusting as a girl asleep on a beam water trapped beneath her tongue krill buried in her baleen men whistle and unwind her belly until she is completely undressed she won=t kiss and tell now her ribbons and bows sink onto the ocean floor and leave the unblemished clouds low-spirited men un-lady her and drink beer talk of better days of rending little girls skirts and thrashing the moon 16

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STILL THE WRONG AGE The maitre d asks if Im your daughter, and you shift your shoulders, not looking at anything in particular. I laugh and say that youre my sugar daddy and then theres that awkward look on your face, not sure if you want to reprimand or kiss me, like that time you found me and your granddaughter coloring in bed. The lady smiles and, with her hard-cut black suit, leads us to a table by a window. I order a bottle of wine and you drink a beer and we begin arguing about the definition of Talent and the consciousness of Austen and Wilde. And you stare at me with the curiosity of a child as I order a shot of whiskey, thinking that if I dont sleep tonight, Ill be sick. 17

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INSOMNIA The mind imagines itself quiet like this house held between the cat=s menacing paws. You have vanished in the blankets, the strewn pathway to sleep. This house with the memory of an hourglass tilts to the cat splayed out on an open book. No song, no liturgy. We hear the beating wings of daybreak. 18

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BUFFERS These were the muffled eighties: Just say no packed with a coloring book and four cheap crayons; far-off places like Nicaragua ate into Dallas; and the mushrooms my cousin, Jennifer, and I stole made us sick. 19

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MISTAKE I think she was eight when she cradled a bunny like a wiggling baby doll in her purple-hooded jacket. She should have known better, Momma said, little girls dirty hands smell peculiar to a mother bunny. That same year Uncle Jimmy was turned out. And a woman in knee-highs bought her a pack of crayons. We drew red and black snowmen on the porch without Grandmother taking a switch to us. Aunt Donna once told me she loved a turtle so much that she decorated its shell with paint. I dont know what that means. Uncle Jimmys hands smelled of cedar and dog piss. Momma said, Theres no telling why he would play house with two silly gooses underneath a raggedy old green tablecloth. I think we buried that bunny under a magnolia. 20

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THE RETURN Trees, dead, held onto dried fruit, But the village sent her out to find berries. So, sweet and empty-handed she returned clutching a doll with eyes made of coins. The land gathered itself over her bloom And trees began to blossom. 21

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TUMPT Tumpt (tumpt) [[prob. < Southern (United States) tump]] n. 1 an aspect of being fucked-over; a state of being, to be tumpt 2 a state of irrevocable loss with hope of fulfillment (not in the form of revenge) 3 not related to frump Tumpt doesnt sing Why not me (when the nights are lonely)? like a dead eighties icon; oh, no, it has ever-fixd fame like Jane Russells black hair and whore-red mouth. Tumpt is never silent, never mutters, Why is she with that other guy?thats envy, pride, and all those other un-psychedelic crustaceans. Tumpt swings in like a zephyr from the wrong direction, disheveling your hair and saying whoooaa. Its probably what inspired the Beatles best albums (like Sgt Peppers). But Tumpt didnt break up the Beatlesthat was Yoko. Tumpt cant be planned forit cant even be described (even with crayons). At worst, Tumpt dines with Ozzie and Harriet and wakes up at 11 in the morning with a bloody hangover. Tumpt requires instantaneous reaction, free from time and memoryJung would agreeand swells up enough for Freud before the curtain call. 22

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AROUND A BACKYARD FIRE AT A FRIENDS HOUSE ON NEW YEARS DAY We chat about metaphysics, fate, stupid things, and I think you can teach me, tell me what is wrong with my life. With your arms wrapped around your legs, you talk of sailing away in your boat and never seeing land. I say that I can bait a hook. With my head on your shoulder, I think I want to fuck you, to gather your voice inside of me and burn with the same line sight. I raise my head and slide my tongue behind the barriers of your teeth and hate you before your tongue touches mine. 23

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SURVIVING LEUKEMIA Wrapped like a petal in brown paper, a pale lady in a floral nightgown runs her lean fingers over an opened box of chocolates from her husband. Her breaths rise, sharp and harsh as a pine cone. Ten years of these silly gifts. Bumpy tongue against fur, the cat begins her morning bath and is not eager for coddling. Rain trails the window and strikes notes on each tree as an offering to the house, not quiet, but still. 24

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MAKING LOVE UPSTAIRS Your mothers dying downstairs, she and I both calling your name. You wait for the pressure to release between my shoulder blades and then turn down the hallway with a sharp heel as I light another cigarette, sending ghost smoke down the corridors. 25

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Cortney Michelle Grubbs attended University of Montevallo; Valencia Community College, where she received an Associate in Arts; and the University of Central Florida, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in English, summa cum laude, and was a charter member of the Cypress Dome Society, which is dedicated to bringing authors to the Central Florida community. Before receiving her Master of Fine Arts at the University of Florida, she worked as a Marketing Assistant and Consultant for Market Consultants, a company dedicated to supporting the dignified survival of farmers in America and Canada. 26


Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0004781/00001

Material Information

Title: Where the Gods Live
Physical Description: 31 p.
Creator: Grubbs, Cortney Michelle ( Dissertant )
Wade, Sidney E. ( Thesis advisor )
Bryant, Marsha ( Reviewer )
Logan, William ( Reviewer )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: English thesis, M.F.A
Dissertations, Academic -- UF -- English

Notes

Abstract: The author should offer the following cautionary criticism and summary: Ms Grubbs strives too hard to breech the boundaries between poetry and prose, slightly falling limp on the former, albeit her voice one of memorable confessional haziness; should you abhor one of her poems, I fear you should like none of them because in her detrimental attempts to inflate juvenile seconds, she has made the poems a female bird, large and without color. On a celebratory note: each poem serves as a translation of a moment, intrinsically interwoven with the past and present, subconscious and conscious, anticipation and stasis. Amidst the spaces is the magical quality of poetry and another space where the readers' gods, in whatever form they take in memory and sensation, will emerge and breathe. Influences of the collection of poetry include (with no negative reflections on the authors with regards to the flaws of this volume): Kim Addonizio; Jane Austen; John Berryman; Donald Hall; Michael Hofmann; Marie Howe; James Joyce; Robert Lowell; Paul Muldoon; Flannery O'Conner; Rainer Maria Rilke; Anne Sexton; Sidney Wade; and Oscar Wilde.
Subject: poetry, thesis
General Note: Title from title page of source document.
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains 33 pages.
General Note: Includes vita.
Thesis: Thesis (M.F.A.)--University of Florida, 2004.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Additional Physical Form: Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0004781:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0004781/00001

Material Information

Title: Where the Gods Live
Physical Description: 31 p.
Creator: Grubbs, Cortney Michelle ( Dissertant )
Wade, Sidney E. ( Thesis advisor )
Bryant, Marsha ( Reviewer )
Logan, William ( Reviewer )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: English thesis, M.F.A
Dissertations, Academic -- UF -- English

Notes

Abstract: The author should offer the following cautionary criticism and summary: Ms Grubbs strives too hard to breech the boundaries between poetry and prose, slightly falling limp on the former, albeit her voice one of memorable confessional haziness; should you abhor one of her poems, I fear you should like none of them because in her detrimental attempts to inflate juvenile seconds, she has made the poems a female bird, large and without color. On a celebratory note: each poem serves as a translation of a moment, intrinsically interwoven with the past and present, subconscious and conscious, anticipation and stasis. Amidst the spaces is the magical quality of poetry and another space where the readers' gods, in whatever form they take in memory and sensation, will emerge and breathe. Influences of the collection of poetry include (with no negative reflections on the authors with regards to the flaws of this volume): Kim Addonizio; Jane Austen; John Berryman; Donald Hall; Michael Hofmann; Marie Howe; James Joyce; Robert Lowell; Paul Muldoon; Flannery O'Conner; Rainer Maria Rilke; Anne Sexton; Sidney Wade; and Oscar Wilde.
Subject: poetry, thesis
General Note: Title from title page of source document.
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains 33 pages.
General Note: Includes vita.
Thesis: Thesis (M.F.A.)--University of Florida, 2004.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Additional Physical Form: Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0004781:00001


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WHERE THE GODS LIVE


By

CORTNEY MICHELLE GRUBBS
















A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF FINE ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2004

































Copyright 2004

by

Cortney Michelle Grubbs

































This collection of poetry is dedicated to the intellectually stimulating and constant
radiance of: Lisa; Erica; Idoia; and my family, Roger, Debra, and Meagan.















ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This collection of poetry exists thanks to the passion for language encouraged by

the talented and patient poets: Sidney Wade, William Logan, Debora Greger, Michael

Hofmann, and Terry Thaxton. I thank especially Sidney Wade, my thesis director, an

inspirational muse whose support and keen criticism for everything I wrote created a

marvelous journey through words. And humble thanks go to my committee members,

Marsha Bryant and William Logan, for their enthusiasm and appreciation for the written

word. I am in the thralls of gratitude as a result of the innumerable kindnesses and

indulgence of my quirky sense of literary criticism from Pamela Gilbert, Marsha Bryant,

Brandon Kershner, and Lisa Logan. And, my pseudo-sanity performance was maintained

by the brilliance and love of Idoia Gorosabel's admiration for spirits and the Polaroid;

Lisa Case's zeal for discussion and search for chocolate; Erica Dix's gentle domesticity;

Jessica and J.C.'s extraordinary hospitality; Joel Adams's and Aaron Talbot's sense of

style intermingled with a devastating intellect; Kevin Wilson's willingness to allow me to

read alongside of him (twice) at Goerings; Harun Thomas's, Sid Dobrin's, and Michael

Pearle's pedagogical support; my parents, Roger and Debra, and my sister Meagan, for

their unwavering confidence in me; the entire poetry group at University of Florida; and

Goerings Book Store.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS



A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S ....................................................................... ................... iv

ABSTRACT ............... .......................................... vii

W H E R E T H E G O D S L IV E ........................................................................ ....................1

VAGUE MORNINGS IN A SLEEPLESS HOUSE................................... ....................2

S O N G ................................................................................... 3

A F TE R TH E PA R T Y ...................................................................... .... ........................ 4

W ET D IRT AN D A R O SE TA TTO O ....................................................................... ....5

S IL E N T ................... ...................6.............................

LIVING ALONE IN FEBRUARY.......................................................... ..............7

O N E -H A N D ED A PPL A U SE ..................................................................... ....................8

AN AM ERICAN D INN ER, 1986 ................................................ ............................. 9

AFTER A NIGHT OF BINGE-DRINKING ON MAIN ST............................... 10

N O V E M B E R B U R IA L ............................................................................ .................... 1

TO GRANDMOTHER, AN UNSENT LETTER..................................... ...............12

SA Y IN G Y E S ...................................................... 14

LOVE-BUGS ON PARADE ............................................................. ..................15

BLU E W H A LE ............... ............................ ............ .............. .......... 16

STILL TH E W R O N G A G E ............................................................................. .......... 17

IN S O M N IA ................................................................................................................... 1 8

B U F F E R S ................................................................19



v









M IS T A K E ................................................................................. 2 0

T H E R E T U R N .................................................................................. 2 1

T U M P T .............. ..... ............2 2................. .........

AROUND A BACKYARD FIRE AT A FRIEND'S HOUSE ON NEW YEAR'S DAY23

SU R V IV IN G L E U K E M IA ....................................................................... ....................24

M AK IN G LOVE UPSTAIR S............................................................................25

BIOGRAPH ICAL SKETCH ...................................................... 26















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts

WHERE THE GODS LIVE

By

Cortney Michelle Grubbs

May 2004

Chair: Sidney Wade
Major Department: English

The author should offer the following cautionary criticism and summary: Ms

Grubbs strives too hard to breech the boundaries between poetry and prose, slightly

falling limp on the former, albeit her voice one of memorable confessional haziness;

should you abhor one of her poems, I fear you should like none of them because in her

detrimental attempts to inflate juvenile seconds, she has made the poems a female bird,

large and without color. On a celebratory note: each poem serves as a translation of a

moment, intrinsically interwoven with the past and present, subconscious and conscious,

anticipation and stasis. Amidst the spaces is the magical quality of poetry and another

space where the readers' gods, in whatever form they take in memory and sensation, will

emerge and breathe. Influences of the collection of poetry include (with no negative

reflections on the authors with regards to the flaws of this volume): Kim Addonizio; Jane

Austen; John Berryman; Donald Hall; Michael Hofmann; Marie Howe; James Joyce;

Robert Lowell; Paul Muldoon; Flannery O'Conner; Rainer Maria Rilke; Anne Sexton;

Sidney Wade; and Oscar Wilde.

















WHERE THE GODS LIVE


Chevys are curb-sided mutts
at the local diner,
and locals push cold potatoes
with syrupy tea
around in their jaws.

Gathering on these streets
of bubble gum wrappers and dried spit,
smutty shadows call after each other
and offer carbon monoxide to the stars.
Waitresses break out their mops
and Elvis sweeps his cloak over the sky.















VAGUE MORNINGS IN A SLEEPLESS HOUSE


The cruel window mocks me with another shade of pink in the sky.
Dew, heavy on the grass, frees the world from silence.
Your body still hangs onto sleep like a lovely child's
while the ducks flap their wings against the water.
My face pressed against your chest, I mimic your breathing,
trying to sleep against the sound of beating wings.















SONG

Darling Virginia, the mums refuse to survive.
Watering, coaxing, sunlight: all you left
in the bucket at the stream eats a hole in the soil.

The waterlogged daisies threaten to rot the lap
of the porch, and the water lilies sing of you,
swimming in the river, a mermaid's sonata.















AFTER THE PARTY


The flasks are empty and the house smells
of sweet rain from the kitchen window;
your slight chest rises in regular patterns
and I slink from bed to porch like a thief
to pace on planks of wood around the hanging
Magnolia limbs. I want to shake the sleep violently
from your eyes so that I can unveil
this world: clean and suspiciously green.















WET DIRT AND A ROSE TATTOO


He picked up odd jobs, like mowing lawns and
replacing Aunt Florence's light bulb in the den (even
though her husband could do it) and would hand
Uncle Jerry a few extra dollars when her husband
wasn't around. Poor Uncle Jerry: the pity of the
town, running errands for relatives during the day
while worrying about his beloved wife and rubbing
her hands during the night, perhaps tired and vacant-
eyed, searching for the rose tattoo between her thumb
and index finger that had long been removed during
chemotherapy. At her funeral, he walked around the
cemetery, the mound still fresh, told family, I hope
we meet soon. As customary, we kept our promise in
the same church. He made a year without her and
then his heart exploded (yes, literally), as the Shotts
boys' before him. Mother said it was because of love;
he answered his wife's call from Heaven-that's what
the preacher said. And so the wreaths were hung at
the front of the church with Brenda (not God)
inscribed on the pink plastic telephone and a yellow
telephone for Uncle Jerry's Answering. His face was
weirdly still in the casket, closed off, then
disappeared. And finally, we all evaporated again.















SILENT

after Paul Muldoon's "Kissing and Telling"

He would shift his shoulders and shuffle
as if he were studying the entirety of his being through that shuffle.

He'd flick his pipe ash against the wall and ash would fly
and stick on his trousers. If he looked out the corner of his eye, you knew

you had to be Someone. Humming "Truckin',"
he'd wash his paint brushes, caked but clean, while you dug his paintings.

He would say that he's only a translator, not an artist,

tighten his neck as if you had already offered a compliment
and then retract his gaze as if presupposing was a mistake.

Somehow he was the wrong age,

a boy, too eager and shrouded in uncertainty, hesitant to show you the bathroom.
Bewitched by mind-readers but scared

you could see he hadn't painted for years,
he nestled into cadmiums and umbers and coddled his art, a silent prayer for disclosure.
















LIVING ALONE IN FEBRUARY

This house holds the grammar of emptiness. Upstairs, the same boards creak by the bed,
but it's just the cat, now orange-shaped and paw-heavy.

It's cold outside; the new pansies look soggy. Snuggled in the blanket of sky, the moon,
a cruel creature and flat as a paper plate, holds your face.

I wonder if you have a new lover across town and if she sleeps. I separate your tattered
copy
of Ulysses from my Pride and Prejudice. Why isn't it snowing yet?
















ONE-HANDED APPLAUSE


How picturesque:
the iron skillet's
coquettish waves of heat

kiss my hand
instead of the oven mitt.
How quaint!

My hand,
swollen
stiff.

Mother bone
shrinks from her own
flesh like a witch.

Confess:
you crave
adoration, not aloe or gauze.

Breathe, you
selfish life-imprint;
here's a stale peppermint.















AN AMERICAN DINNER, 1986


Mother walks away from the stove as if for a moment to talk on the phone.
Outside, the dogs aren't barking. The TV, no sound, glows with some war or other.

Singing and burning in the oven, the rolls, a choir. I say nothing,
am nothing, like the rain and sun sinking into the lake behind our house.

At dinner, Father asks God to forgive our sins and bless the food.
Mother passes the basket of black-topped rolls.















AFTER A NIGHT OF BINGE-DRINKING ON MAIN ST.


I sit in time-out
at the local laundromat
next to a girl
with lizard tattoos
sprawled across her biceps
and Bobby on her breast pocket.
We wait for our one-load
shirts and towels
to cook clean.
I smile at the comic book
straddled above
her cherry-leather boots.
"Studying comics?" I ask.
"No," she answers,
"I just like it." She drifts out
and a boy skirts in
with Jesus sandals
and khaki shorts,
and begins sorting:
fuchsia shorts,
pink and white bras,
tee-tops,
and funny pink baby pajamas
the size of a butterfly
in a museum exhibit.















NOVEMBER BURIAL


The smell, that's how we always know.
And Granddaddy puts on his gloves and John Deere cap
and I sandwich my feet in one of the flat spaces behind the cabin of the bulldozer.
"Hold on, Doll," he yells over the rumbling of a cold engine.

Groaning, the bulldozer pushes through the thick clay
and lifts the massive carcass in the air, like a fish rising out of water.
Shifting the hard black gears, he lets her down
and shoves her body into the scum-filled creek.
You can never tell which calves were hers.
The herd has moved on, their warm breaths signaling in the mist.
















TO GRANDMOTHER, AN UNSENT LETTER

I think it's sort of a pill, not enough,
but just adequate
to get through one session of therapy.

This letter
is supposed to serve as confessional
redemption,

some unburdening of my subconscious.
You aren't dead.
What should I see after this scraping off

of you?-
you not cutting my hair while I slept,
and me,

silly and ten, waking on the floor, chased
around the kitchen
at three in the morning by the imagination?-

me, now
pinches over twenty, startled awake at night
and still stumbling

towards the you-that's-not-there? You seem hard
as candy,
far away as Halloween during January.

Understand?
Why are you still eating my memory?
Please stop

sending cards
for Christmas, and every once in a while,
for birthdays.






13


You beg
for more than my pen can sketch on flat paper.
My postage-
I want it reimbursed. I almost want you gone.















SAYING YES


This kitchen holds anger better than silverware:
You're angry because I turned off the evening television;
I'm angry that I don't care if you help me with dinner.
We fuck, our clothes halfway on, crooked, like teenagers.
And this violence, by the celery soup, is the closest that I've been to saying Yes.















LOVE-BUGS ON PARADE


Like e-mails from friends and lovers and friend-lovers,
coupling, like squirrels around a grapefruit,
as if begging for a more-or-less twitch from us in the car,

hunched, love-bugs twirl in tufts of air
like two tiny kites' tangled frames released by a curious child.

At every hour they appear, a refreshed basketful:
bands of orange and cupcake-yellow around the abdomen;
bean-snap-shaped wings; stenciled-in legs, as if an after-thought.

They wait for the forget-me flutter of my hand
and then, flying out the window, splatter onto cars.















BLUE WHALE


Limp and trusting as a girl asleep on a beam
water trapped
beneath her tongue krill buried in her baleen

men whistle and unwind her belly
until she is completely undressed

she won't kiss and tell now
her ribbons and bows sink onto the ocean floor
and leave the unblemished clouds low-spirited

men un-lady her and drink beer talk of better days
of rending little girls' skirts and thrashing the moon















STILL THE WRONG AGE


The maitre d' asks if I'm your daughter,
and you shift your shoulders, not looking
at anything in particular. I laugh and say
that you're my sugar daddy and then
there's that awkward look on your face,
not sure if you want to reprimand or kiss
me, like that time you found me and your
granddaughter coloring in bed. The lady
smiles and, with her hard-cut black suit,
leads us to a table by a window. I order a
bottle of wine and you drink a beer and we
begin arguing about the definition of
Talent and the consciousness of Austen
and Wilde. And you stare at me with the
curiosity of a child as I order a shot of
whiskey, thinking that if I don't sleep
tonight, I'll be sick.















INSOMNIA


The mind imagines itself quiet
like this house
held between the cat's menacing paws.

You have vanished
in the blankets, the strewn pathway
to sleep.

This house with the memory
of an hourglass
tilts to the cat splayed out on an open book.

No song, no liturgy. We hear the beating wings of daybreak.
















BUFFERS


These were the muffled eighties:
'Just say no' packed
with a coloring book
and four cheap crayons;
far-off places like Nicaragua
ate into Dallas; and the mushrooms
my cousin, Jennifer, and I stole
made us sick.















MISTAKE


I think she was eight
when she cradled a bunny
like a wiggling baby doll
in her purple-hooded jacket.

She should have known better,
Momma said, little girls' dirty hands
smell peculiar to a mother bunny.

That same year Uncle Jimmy
was turned out.
And a woman in knee-highs
bought her a pack of crayons.

We drew red and black snowmen
on the porch without Grandmother
taking a switch to us.

Aunt Donna once told me
she loved a turtle so much
that she decorated its shell with paint.
I don't know what that means.

Uncle Jimmy's hands smelled
of cedar and dog piss.
Momma said, There's no telling
why he wouldplay house
I, ith two silly gooses
underneath a yye l. old green tablecloth.

I think we buried that bunny
under a magnolia.















THE RETURN


Trees, dead, held onto dried fruit,
But the village sent her out to find berries.

So, sweet and empty-handed she returned
clutching a doll with eyes made of coins.

The land gathered itself over her bloom
And trees began to blossom.















TUMPT


Tumpt (tumpt) [[prob. < Southern (United States) tump]] n. 1 an
aspect of being "fucked-over"; a state of being, to be tumpt
2 a state of irrevocable loss with hope of fulfillment (not in
the form of revenge) 3 not related to "frump"

Tumpt doesn't sing "Why not me (when the nights are lonely)?"
like a dead eighties icon; oh, no, it has ever-fixed fame
like Jane Russell's black hair and whore-red mouth.

Tumpt is never silent, never mutters, "Why
is she with that other guy"?-that's envy, pride,
and all those other un-psychedelic crustaceans.

Tumpt swings in like a zephyr from the wrong direction,
disheveling your hair and saying whoooaa. It's probably
what inspired the Beatles' best albums (like Sgt Peppers').

But Tumpt didn't break up the Beatles-that was Yoko.
Tumpt can't be planned for-it can't even be described
(even with crayons). At worst, Tumpt dines with Ozzie and Harriet

and wakes up at 11 in the morning with a bloody hangover.
Tumpt requires instantaneous reaction, free from time and memory-Jung
would agree-and swells up enough for Freud before the curtain call.















AROUND A BACKYARD FIRE AT A FRIEND' S HOUSE ON NEW YEAR' S DAY


We chat about metaphysics, fate, stupid things,
and I think you can teach me,
tell me what is wrong with my life.
With your arms wrapped around your legs,
you talk of sailing away in your boat
and never seeing land.
I say that I can bait a hook.
With my head on your shoulder,
I think I want to fuck you,
to gather your voice inside of me
and bum with the same line sight.
I raise my head and slide my tongue
behind the barriers of your teeth
and hate you before your tongue touches mine.















SURVIVING LEUKEMIA


Wrapped like a petal
in brown paper,
a pale lady in a floral nightgown

runs her lean fingers
over an opened box
of chocolates from her husband.

Her breaths rise, sharp
and harsh as a pine cone.
Ten years of these silly gifts.

Bumpy tongue against fur,
the cat begins her morning bath
and is not eager for coddling.

Rain trails the window
and strikes notes on each tree
as an offering to the house,
not quiet, but still.















MAKING LOVE UPSTAIRS


Your mother's dying downstairs,
she and I both calling your name.
You wait for the pressure to release
between my shoulder blades
and then turn down the hallway with a sharp heel
as I light another cigarette,
sending ghost smoke down the corridors.















BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Cortney Michelle Grubbs attended University of Montevallo; Valencia Community

College, where she received an Associate in Arts; and the University of Central Florida,

where she received a Bachelor of Arts in English, summa cum laude, and was a charter

member of the Cypress Dome Society, which is dedicated to bringing authors to the

Central Florida community. Before receiving her Master of Fine Arts at the University of

Florida, she worked as a Marketing Assistant and Consultant for Market Consultants, a

company dedicated to supporting the dignified survival of farmers in America and

Canada.