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The Good Death, Happy Endings

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PAGE 1

THE GOOD DEATH, HAPPY ENDINGS By JESSICA E. MURRAY 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 2006

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Copyright 2006 by Jessica E. Murray

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For Mary, Joan, and Joseph

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iv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank my sister Molly, a nd my parents Robert and Pamela, for their encouragement and support. Eric Maxson has been an inspiring companion and a fine reader. I would also like to thank the writers of 326 East Harris Stre et, Stacey, Kitty, and Patricia, for getting me on my way. I’ve valued every moment of my time in the writing program at Florida. I thank my fellow poets of the class of 2006 for the ways they have challenged and delighted me with their poems: Adam Vines, Allen Jih, Heather Hamilton, Matt Ladd, Meg Shevenock, Laura Paul and Stephen Priest. Lastly, I thank Sidney Wade for writing some of the poems that first interested me in Florida’s program; Michael Hofmann for the variety of poets and poetry he admires, as well as his slightly laissez-faire approach to workshopping which leaves most of the “work” to the poet; Debora Greger for her tough love and uncomprom ising standards, as well as for Trakl, Clampitt, the T’ang poets, and the list goe s on; and William Logan for his patience, perception, encouragement, and lovely gi ft for teaching. I thank you all so much.

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v TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iv ABSTRACT......................................................................................................................v ii A SENSE OF THE INEVITABLE......................................................................................1 ELEGY FOR SUMMER.....................................................................................................2 FAMILY AFFAIRS.............................................................................................................3 4 AM........................................................................................................................... .........4 THE RAISING OF LAZARUS ..............................................................................................5 OPHELIA........................................................................................................................ ....6 A GREAT BLUE HERON WATCHES A JOGGER..........................................................7 BEYOND THE PLANTATION..........................................................................................8 THE ACCIDENT.................................................................................................................9 EVERGREEN CEMETERY: PSYCHE AND EROS.......................................................10 FUNEREALLY REMINISCENT.....................................................................................11 THE FRUIT DOESN’T FALL FAR FROM THE TREE.................................................12 THE AMATEUR ORNITHOLOGIST..............................................................................13 SOME LIKE IT HOT ..........................................................................................................14 NOTES ON AN OVERLAND JOUR NEY THROUGH FORMOSA..............................15 PITY ME, PHILIP CAREY...............................................................................................17 ROBERT JOHNSON DEALS WITH THE DE VIL: PHOTO BOOTH SELF-PORTRAIT, 1930s.............................................................18

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vi PRAIA IPANEMA............................................................................................................19 WIDOWS’ ELEGY...........................................................................................................20 A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE FI RST THREE BOOKS OF GENESIS..............22 THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.......................................................23 BETRAYAL AND THE CROW.......................................................................................24 AT THE EDGE OF LAKE NEWNAN.............................................................................25 TERRA INCOGNITA.......................................................................................................26 HELGA SLEEPS...............................................................................................................27 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.............................................................................................28

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vii Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts THE GOOD DEATH, HAPPY ENDINGS By Jessica E. Murray May 2006 Chair: William Logan Major Department: English In tenth grade, I came across the first lines of poetry I wanted to remember, from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass: I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning, / How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn'd over upon me, / And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart, / And reach'd till you felt my b eard, and reach'd till you held my feet. These lines still electrify me. There is both intelligence and emotion, both the carefree and the urgent present in Whitman ’s poem. I hope the poems that follow sometimes manage to combine the same qualities to reach the reader, leaving him or her with a sense of discovery.

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1 A SENSE OF THE INEVITABLE 1969, my father boarded a plane for Vietnam. Soldiers flew west, probably eager, no more than a little sad, as though in their hometowns no flagging English teache rs taught Wilfred Owen any more. On a blind date two years later he met my mother, her beauty the halo of a streetlight in the rain, my father’s old-fashioned manners the remnant of Catholicism in a young man guilty of something he could not control. At a party, my mother was always the fi rst to dance on the table. Have you met Bobby’s girlfriend? She’s Puerto Rican they said of my mother, r eally just half-Portuguese. Your father had Paul Newman eyes my mother told me by way of explanation. She did not mention the quarrels that came later, after two children. Doesn’t Ovid have a tale about getting what you ask for? I suspect my father fell out of love, later fell back in. 1975, resplendent, pregnant, my mother would grow thin again. I almost call th em ordinary, then regret it— each of us sees in our parents what we hide from ourselves.

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2 ELEGY FOR SUMMER My parents dropped their proper English among ice-cubes in gelid gin-and-tonics. Dime-store novels were thumbed open again to the best few pages, and everyone smelled faintly of coconut, even the swimmers returning from the sea. In less than five years my father’s sisters would be dead or dying, but the paths to the beach were then still trellised with roses lolling on t horny, verdant wires, and blurred clouds of small bees rolled across the thickets. A crow lay next to a trash-can; ants clotted its eye and the cradle of its beak. My father, treading water beyond the thudding breakers, pointed to the miniature ships smudging the hazy horizon. At dusk, the dark bars on the pier stumbled awake, and the squat cottages teemed with heat. In a rental, I lay beneath the unfamiliar ceiling. A bed in another room was moving nowhere, but steadily.

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3 FAMILY AFFAIRS Beneath the glassy stares of family pictures, a girl fidgets in a hallway still carpeted in seventies shag. In the center photo, her aunt’s dress, garnished with appliqu, puffs like stale piques of frosting. His knuckles pale and tight, her uncle holds Her aunt’s wrist as she slices the wedding cake. Bride and groom wear watery, oversized lenses. In the kitchen, footba ll rules the television. On the darkening sill, snowflakes faint. Her uncle, holding a can on his lap, scoops up a palmful of nuts. Her mother sips at a drink with a lime in it. The tree lists in the living room, but the angel glows with a waxy, righteous light. The girl etches her name into the frost forming at the edge of the window before biting off the legs of the gingerbread men hanging on red ribbon from the branches. Dinner plates are furnished mathematically. Upon the house, dusk falls. A pair of pheasants dresses the fence. With a clatter of wings, the male flies into the window. The family puts down their forks. The bird lies broken in the snow. Something in the night, the girl decides, would take care of it.

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4 4 AM The animals from Die Grossen Blauen Pferde nibble at the edge of her consciousness, nudge with their great, soft teeth be neath a leaf. Beside her, a man lies sleeping. She feels her way to the kitchen. A bird she cannot identify sings somethi ng old, like a forgotten lullaby. Earlier, his hands had spread beneat h her like branches she might break. Solitude, except for the tunneling of vermin in the attic, and the whistle, far-off but audible, of a train approaching Topeka, consumed her, as though it had been waiting, crepuscular on the wate r-stained ceiling. Darkness is a shoulder she looks over: behind her all is shadow. Nearer to dawn, she dreams she looks over an ocean. A sandpiper splits the sky. She beco mes the bird as it descends— gladdened, unburdened, then sunk in the dog’s hot mouth.

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5 THE RAISING OF LAZARUS Escaping to France, Henry O. Tanner almost died of a fever amidst chipped china, onions molding in wicker, a forgotten easel. For two years he recovered at home in Philadelphia. He told Mother to keep the curtains closed, sunlight teasing his brow with heat. Each time she bent her lips to his cheek, he saw her set ting someone else’s table, hoeing a row of spindly dark red cabbages. Fridays, Mother played the Victrola before a potato and fried-fish dinner. Don’t mind Paris she said when the wind rattled the gate and Father practiced his Sunday sermon before a mirror in the hallway, his voice striding into the crevices of the brocade couch, up into the fusty attic, its forgotten laces. Convalescent, Tanner painted The Banjo Lesson the rigors of the Academie Julien still forming his nascent stroke. Returning to France, Tanner dreamed of his mother, tid y beneath coarse covers, wrists bloody as a stillbirth soaking through the blankets.

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6 OPHELIA I dream the riverbed holds sw eet poppies: indulgent blooms beneath a patina sky, ruddy me with vermeil lip, cold stems of verd-antique. In water without weight, my conscience does not suffer. I wake to the cry of the loon, sounding for loss below the wash of stars. Each scraping dirge bottoms the unspoken: too late, too late lashes the echo. Junes we watched the antics of dragonflies. Your fingers found my hair. Beneath your tongue, my artifice dissolved. When I closed my eyes I saw Polonius, jealous of the way you’d surpassed him at his part.

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7 A GREAT BLUE HERON WATCHES A JOGGER Often, grief or guilt hurri es her along the outskirts of the swamp, the ta tted hem of forest. If she looks for her young, sh e looks half-heartedly, glancing at the webs of the banana spiders. Her approach is like the call of the tree frogs, diffident and harsh. The hill suffers her to return, empty-handed. I find her fortune Shakespearean— she lopes and blunders, becoming neither cleaner nor smaller. Or, under the white rush of clouds, she is the failure of fable, the dark, iridescent murder of cr ows. When one hunts, it must be done slowly and with a longer neck.

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8 BEYOND THE PLANTATION White lilies, orchids perhaps, swayed in the sleight-of-hand breeze then disappeared, the sun like a beetle, ringed in black on the pale, taut sky. Fire ants raised their mounds anywhere, our nouveau riche The quail’s foolish heart drummed its fury outside the body. The milky green Pleistocene wings of the underbrush beat softly against the anomalous tick of engines on Cairo Road. Hawks—no, they we re vultures—circled above the sap, the trees, the shine on your chin evaporating in the heat. The birds waited for us to rise or continue falling, immune to the finite, the caveat emptor of happiness.

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9 THE ACCIDENT The wooden cross leans with ingratiation, but offers nothing special by way of return, becomes less a monument than a diptych in the landscape. As we drive by, you fiddle with the radio; I watch a red-tail hawk cr uise toward the river, where teenagers gather in hand-me-down cars, their cigarettes damp and swollen. They dive from the bridge into the crowded horizon. Back then, I sneezed at marriage, the futile plumage of children. Some nights we try to recall the warm, dazed scaffolding of our early years only to find the casualty of ordinary l ove slowly stripping us of thankfulness, empat hy, the necessary grace.

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10 EVERGREEN CEMETERY: PSYCHE AND EROS As though mourning only occurs in the cold, the fallow lanes brought the air to attention. Unfolding like a poorly-packed suitcase, tombs leaned toward the road. Damp as otters, patches of mold stretched over the stones; sour blooms of lichen anchored themselves to ears of marble lambs. The plumes of our speech we scattered as if they were breadcrumbs as we moved closer to the dead. Near a clutch of PVC crosses, you slapped at the industrial mosquitoes, a daub of blood welling on your arm. In a neighborhood to th e north, the barking of pit-bulls suddenly ceased: if nothing separated us except for the casual brutalitie s of long-forgotten gods, ghosts, it mattered little, we had more than most.

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11 FUNEREALLY REMINISCENT While elsewhere a trumpet landed on the sidewalk, a paddle sank in the come-hither bloom of the Okeefenokee Swamp; and my mother stood, in a Maidenform slip, watching a spotted toad. I looked at the White Mountains beyond the tombs that lay in resistance, soft, off-white and jagged, like the caramelized remains of Carcharodon carcharias : all butter, m ilk, and root— the sea, as I remember, stopped and stood at the edge of our yard, each dorsal fin a dormer window upon the darkness where the deer in summer gathered beside the unpaved road. My younger sister played piano poorly. She longed for a pony, I think. The sky was a coffin, the satin bitter, if you want the truth. We lived in sand where water used to roll, the loose ground salty and br immed with oyster shell.

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12 THE FRUIT DOESN’T FALL FAR FROM THE TREE Our town was much like any other. The supermarket was haunted— O linoleum queens, how I danced with you in a tempest of peas, and the graveyard bore the best fruit. O stunted plums from limbs swathed in ocher lichen, have you forgotten me? The White Mountains stood their distance. On school buses we pressed our mouths to the glass, tasted their summits. From plywood desks, our teac hers whispered, “Don’t believe everything you read,” and we knew the world was flat. In ice shacks on the Kennebec, we set fire to winter and wrenched fish from the water into the confusion of sky. When the heat lightning of August clawed at the twilight, we swam in the fathomless river, our limbs like Stygian meadows. My mother taught me how to staple my heart to my sleeve; my father, to count my losses in a hallway of mirrors. My sister invented canned clouds in lite syrup on Saltine crackers, made a fortune, and lost it.

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13 THE AMATEUR ORNITHOLOGIST Here, dragonflies raid th e falling dusk for gnats, their wings of chain-mail dubious armor against the crows hunting above the fields of obsolete farmers. Theda Bara wore her clothes as if they were curtains: velvet fripperies opened to the street. If Sin turns up in a Frankfur t attic, translation needs only the res gestae of the celluloid haze. My first wife was an antique ice-bucket, an isinglass monocle, a flau tist tending a table marked These items not for sale. Before concerts, she took atenolol, her imperfect fingers lulled into a perfect, but incurious, submission. I’d like it if the films again fell silent, and the dispensable were replaced with the engraved. Is there anything we like better than what’s lost? In Africa, white-fronted b ee eaters eke out their lives dependent on family. Over the internet, the birds seem to have ice-picks for beaks; as of yet, I can find no recording of the warning, or mating, calls.

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14 SOME LIKE IT HOT The ribboned brims of Florida millionaires lean toward the Teetotal er’s leggy all-girl band, like hopeful, wayward heliotropes. Undressing made everythi ng closer: the sock-pile near the hamper, the country music drifting downstairs from the kitchen, the oiled biceps on the sports poster beside the bed. The coiffed young ladies had all the reedy instruments they needed for tragedy, or, if they were lucky, the flawed but happy ending. I dropped my tea gown, or was it my father’s sweater, more buckram than hand-sewn lace, while the girls performed on the hotel stage. What we knew we didn’t know, we forgot. Night, on the 13" TV, was thin, cloudless. Here, it was raining, as if it were the opening scene of any good movie. The lightning was a white ribbon, a white fracture, who could tell?

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15 NOTES ON AN OVERLAND JOURNEY THROUGH FORMOSA With the political part of these proceedings we, As geographers, are happily not concerned. —Michael Beazeley, 1875 I could merely distinguish the mandarin’s shoulder, decorated with some sort of star, as he led us toward the coast through a jungle thick with the tongues of birds. Choh had been dozing on his pony as we wound our way through the white mangrove; it all seemed terrible civil, until, too close to turn back, the fiercer tribes did not want us to pass, fearing smallpox. We were forced to argue in Choh’s village— how suffocating the heat and the closeness of the house! How unbearably dirty the yard! We got away by the light of a beautiful little moon. Many villagers supposed us to be doctors; Choh assured me they had been disillusioned before. At a remote settlement, no more than grass huts really, there was a rumor we would be attacked. I lay awake, longing for tea, reciting the names of constellations whose shapes I could no longer remember. The island is slowly rising—s o much better, one supposes, than slowly sinking. Coral lies about confusedly; the hills echo with water. Anping is no wi der than the lens of a camera. During the rains, the passage is quite unceremonious; one lands seated in a washtub plunked on a raft, relieved to find the boatmen more agile than our best footballers. From the Pescadores, I had watched the mountain range for months, the vertebrae of some great beast

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16 shrouded in clouds. The difficulties we faced were but trivial (a token of cash, bolts of fabric, strands of red beads). The lighthouse must be built. The epigraph from this piece is drawn from Michael B eazeley’s “Notes of an Over land Journey through the Southern Part of Formosa, from Takow to the South Cape, in 1875, with an Introductory Sketch of the Island .” Proceeding of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography n.s. 7 (January 1885).

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17 PITY ME, PHILIP CAREY A bluebottle, iridescent, lost without the lingua franca, blind to everything except what it understood with its terrified ancient eye, nosed at a window not, it seemed, in an effort to escape, but rather to remain inside, where the clouds scrawled hastily across the sky like a note left on a refrigerator; and the rain that did not escape its own fall, remained a myth, like that of a garden it could not articulate, but remembered having heard of once before, when such (those wings, that term inal buzzing) was not the limit of its dumb understanding. I threw open the window and felt the oppression of the unending dark, the weight of my body its frame. An engine turned over like an accusation, or its weak abnegation, and sputtered out. A grackle coughed in the tree. In the station below, the last train bullied its cargo of sedentary ghosts.

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18 ROBERT JOHNSON DEALS WITH THE DE VIL: PHOTO BOOTH SELF-PORTRAIT, 1930s Like a bandage pressing against a wound, he wears his guitar across his body. The dark frets are blurred, like newsprint left out in a drizzl e. His cropped fingers sound a chord just beyond the frame, the background a white canvas sheet strung up on a wire. Suspenders stretch over his shoulders, the collar to his starched shirt open at the throat. From his slightly parted lips, an unlit cigarette dangles. He sits just off center, moving toward the shadows.

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19 PRAIA IPANEMA We ate chicken hearts scraped from long skewers in the churrascarias like locals, and spent an afternoon on the boardwalk writing postcards to our Brazilian co-worke rs, feeling guilty, I hope but can’t recall. At an outdoor market I begged for a painting we couldn’t afford, you didn’t want, that, in the end, became the one thing you had to have. At night in our shabby hotel room, we made grand promises only one of us would keep. When you asked me to marry you, the cariocas at the bar applauded with no little enthusiasm. Do you still have that picture of me, standing beneath Christo Redentor my arms spread to the sky?

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20 WIDOWS’ ELEGY The killing frost will not descend; autumn’s earthy blooms poise in twilight. November lies near but dull, the stalled season of widows. Nights with my husband, I don’t think about the indifference of darkness, how the still-living sleep with little assurance, the static of strangers on the television’s walls. My elderly neighbor watches yellow mutts crossing the street, naming them after my sister and me. She says, They do their business then rush back in. More than death, I fear my mother’s closed mouth. I try to imagine leaving her, some twenty years from now, in a nursing home— the taupe bowels and trim lawns of her final hours, the hollow-boned panic of birds. At night, on my knees, I put my face down on the pillow. My husband’s hands need the different vellum of my skin. Over my shoulder, I watch him rise up

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21 off his knees. What follows knows no apology.

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22 A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE FI RST THREE BOOKS OF GENESIS Near dusk, when the white owl began to hunt, the doorbell rang. My sister called, Who’s there ? His snakeskin jacket dusted with snow, he smiled. Buy some fresh oranges for the giving season? Ladies, take two large ba gs for the price of one. We paid. The Florida oranges smelled of citrus and gasoline, were gathered in mesh whose flaps were sewn with a thick re d stitch. We tore the bag and peeled the skins. The flesh was musty and braided with bitter pulp. Our mother dozed on the couch. The needles of the pines were blue with cold, the calloused bark pasted with sap. The yard gathered the falling snow. I saw, for a moment, the garden; spring had brought its usual bright undergarments, hung them out to dry. On the TV, a herd of cattle blinked their dumb, wet eyes. On the basement’s wooden stairs, our father stepped: we hid our wakened mouths.

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23 THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE Downstairs, the diners lift their glasses and graze off mismatched porcelain. Women in scarves trail unfinished sent ences behind them. The waiters slouch in ru mpled, cool abstention. Etched on the porcelain are women in scarves. Plates pile in the sink like time on a stopped clock. The waiters slouch in ru mpled, cool abstention; a rickshaw rounds the co rner, ferrying tourists. Words pile in the sink like time on a stopped clock, the things you wanted to, but did not, say— a rickshaw rounds the co rner, ferrying tourists— their words are lost beneath the soured cloth. The words you wanted to, but did not say disintegrate, a feve r’s paper language, or drown beneath the metallic, soured cloth. Your easy-go-lucky charm is wavering. Disintegration: a fever’s paper language. Familiar strangers crowd your glassy head. Your easy-go-lucky charm is wavering while cypress branches knock against the cold. Unpleasant strangers crowd your glassy head, trailing unfinished sentences behind them. The lichened branches knock against the cold; downstairs, the diners rais e their half-full glasses.

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24 BETRAYAL AND THE CROW Once, when your wings were white, you kept the favor of Apollo, spoke the business of mortals. You paid for your knowledge with yo ur tongue, the shame of your feathers. Now, you hunt in the thinning dusk, turning your quick eye to the ground. Your lucid lonely caw from wasted birches stripped of summer buries itself beneath the skin of our house so that when we make love it’s always fucking; our tiny breastbones and seedy badger-tongues rub against autumn’s inevitable angle of decline. The uncomely sparrows and wrens don’t linger in yesterday’s matted fur, bruised flesh, or bother with the blunt black-and-white gestures of gods and men. In the ditch beyond bent ferns, the wounded conceive the final cruel quickening— your curious shadow. We lie side by side as the loneliness of punishment slackens, each other’s face a blurred, throw-away language.

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25 AT THE EDGE OF LAKE NEWNAN Weeds trace the shallows before further shadow; beneath the reddish welt of water, minnows practice their odd geometry. The ferocious obbligato of mosquitoes is more an ostinato, while a solitary anhinga pe rches on a bruised root, the cypress branches loose and brow-beaten with moss, vestigial columns of a ruined basilica. The sunken canoes shift in their cradles; on the surface nothing changes slowly. The way the light and the wa ter cannot agree on anything might have pleased Bruegel, the men with cane poles and bait buckets looking in the wrong direction. . O, Lake, how to go on? An ibis stumbles from a knot of trees; its thin, hammered eye rebukes all other art. The anhinga lifts from its perch. Despite this, the far shore remains little more than a cipher, the green woods in shadow, the reeds gathered in silence. Bruegel sought refuge in allegory; but solace is finally mythological. There is only the artist, the emptiness.

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26 TERRA INCOGNITA Down East, I watched the earliest sunrise tangle with forsythia, sea roses, and hoi polloi of weeds loitering near the water, where boats wait in their jaunty egg-washes, the stippled cod, less abundant now, prod the lightless floor beneath the alien surface. The islands of Eastport (Moose, Dog, Carlow, Treat, Burial, Spectacle, Goose, Matthews, and Dyer) announce their mysteries; the slash pines—thin, speckled, spectral— stoop like a poor man’s Narcissus. The slick, mute stoicism of Sail Rock, so autonomous as to be helpless and useful, reveals nothing no matter the photographer’s light. Grazing elbows with Canada in the brothers-in-arms camaraderie of the Bay, this marginalia sloughs off he rring scales after a storm, sending the sea back to the sea. The black guillemot, le guillemot miroir will never be just what it is in the provinces of Canada: the protean sleekness of translation first reflects, next absorb s. The guillemots venture on land only to breed, loving the ocean or indifferent to the machinations of sex. In the white lisp of the tide, herring gulls nag at periwi nkles, the viscous snails vacuumed in their tins like sardines, and the semi-iridescent mussel shells curved like kidneys. The guillemot’s summer plumage dark with breeding, it too scans the horizon, the distant, shifting shore.

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27 HELGA SLEEPS After Wyeth’s “Overflow” A curvature of moraine, imprecise and falling westward, reveals little but a bleached shard, a skeletal key, le petit mort of palate. What green there is ne arest the house, falters between the season of apples darkening the stark, blunt hill and the loess below. One umber bedpost, self-conscious, boastful, worries the corner, turned upon itself. She sleeps, placid Hermione, one hand withered to shadow, the other curled but reaching outward. The rider must be her da ughter returning at last. The echo of birds in a metal staircase, muffled but constant, stirs in th e beacon, the blood reviving, as if there existed such thi ngs: the good death, happy endings.

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28 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Jessica Murray was born in New Hampshir e and grew up in Maine. She received her B.A. in English literature from Bost on University. After a move from Boston to Savannah, Georgia, she became friends with a group of local writers and artists. Experiences there led her to apply to the M.F. A. program at the University of Florida. She has poems in 32 Poems Cranky and Hiram Poetry Review along with several encouraging we’re-interested-bu t-not-right-now reje ction letters. Currently, she hopes to land a residency or win the lottery.


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THE GOOD DEATH, HAPPY ENDINGS


By

JESSICA E. MURRAY

















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


2006


































Copyright 2006

by

Jessica E. Murray


































For Mary, Joan, and Joseph















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank my sister Molly, and my parents Robert and Pamela, for their

encouragement and support. Eric Maxson has been an inspiring companion and a fine

reader. I would also like to thank the writers of 326 East Harris Street, Stacey, Kitty, and

Patricia, for getting me on my way. I've valued every moment of my time in the writing

program at Florida. I thank my fellow poets of the class of 2006 for the ways they have

challenged and delighted me with their poems: Adam Vines, Allen Jih, Heather

Hamilton, Matt Ladd, Meg Shevenock, Laura Paul, and Stephen Priest. Lastly, I thank

Sidney Wade for writing some of the poems that first interested me in Florida's program;

Michael Hofmann for the variety of poets and poetry he admires, as well as his slightly

laissez-faire approach to workshopping which leaves most of the "work" to the poet;

Debora Greger for her tough love and uncompromising standards, as well as for Trakl,

Clampitt, the T'ang poets, and the list goes on; and William Logan for his patience,

perception, encouragement, and lovely gift for teaching. I thank you all so much.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS



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

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

A SEN SE OF THE INEVITABLE.................................................... ..... ...............

ELE G Y FO R SU M M ER .................................................................... ......................... 2

FAM ILY AFFAIR S .................. ................................ ........ ............. .... .3


TH E R ISIN G O F LA..............U S ....................................... .................................................. 5
THE RAISING OF LAZARUS................. ............... ...........5

O P H E L IA ....................................................... 6

A GREAT BLUE HERON WATCHES A JOGGER...................... .......... ...............7

B E Y O N D TH E PL A N TA TIO N ................................................................. ....................8

THE ACCIDENT............ ..... ............. ....... ..... .... ........9

EVERGREEN CEMETERY: PSYCHE AND EROS..............................10

FUNEREALLY REM INISCENT .................................................................. ................. 11

THE FRUIT DOESN'T FALL FAR FROM THE TREE.............. ................12

THE AM ATEUR ORNITHOLOGIST.......................................... .......................... 13

S O M E L IK E IT H O T ....................... ......... ..................................................................... 14

NOTES ON AN OVERLAND JOURNEY THROUGH FORMOSA.............................15

P IT Y M E PH IL IP C A R E Y ...................................................................... .................... 17

ROBERT JOHNSON DEALS WITH THE DEVIL:
PHOTO BOOTH SELF-PORTRAIT, 1930s .................................... ............... 18




v









P R A IA IP A N E M A ......... .. ...... .. ........ .... ........................................ ............19

WIDOWS' ELEGY .................... ........................... ........ 20

A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST THREE BOOKS OF GENESIS .............22

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE...................................... .................23

BETRAYAL AND THE CROW ............................. ....... ................................... 24

AT THE EDGE OF LAKE NEW NAN ........................................ ......................... 25

TERRA IN COGN ITA .............................................................. .... ............. 26

HELGA SLEEPS ................ ................................. ........... 27

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E TCH ...................................................................... ..................28















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

THE GOOD DEATH, HAPPY ENDINGS

By

Jessica E. Murray

May 2006

Chair: William Logan
Major Department: English

In tenth grade, I came across the first lines of poetry I wanted to remember, from

Whitman's Leaves of Grass: I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer

morning, / How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn'd over upon me, /

And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stript

heart, / And reached till you felt my beard, and reached till you held my feet.

These lines still electrify me. There is both intelligence and emotion, both the

carefree and the urgent present in Whitman's poem. I hope the poems that follow

sometimes manage to combine the same qualities to reach the reader, leaving him or her

with a sense of discovery.















A SENSE OF THE INEVITABLE


1969, my father boarded a plane for Vietnam.
Soldiers flew west, probably eager, no more than
a little sad, as though in their hometowns
no flagging English teachers taught Wilfred Owen

any more. On a blind date two years later he met
my mother, her beauty the halo of a streetlight
in the rain, my father's old-fashioned manners
the remnant of Catholicism in a young man guilty

of something he could not control. At a party,
my mother was always the first to dance on the table.
Have you met Bobby 's girlfriend? She 's Puerto Rican,
they said of my mother, really just half-Portuguese.

Your father had Paul Newman eyes, my mother told me
by way of explanation. She did not mention
the quarrels that came later, after two children.
Doesn't Ovid have a tale about getting what you ask for?

I suspect my father fell out of love, later fell back in.
1975, resplendent, pregnant, my mother would
grow thin again. I almost call them ordinary, then regret it-
each of us sees in our parents what we hide from ourselves.















ELEGY FOR SUMMER


My parents dropped their proper English
among ice-cubes in gelid gin-and-tonics.
Dime-store novels were thumbed open again
to the best few pages,
and everyone smelled faintly of coconut,
even the swimmers returning from the sea.

In less than five years my father's sisters
would be dead or dying,
but the paths to the beach were then still trellised
with roses lolling on thorny, verdant wires,
and blurred clouds of small bees rolled
across the thickets.

A crow lay next to a trash-can; ants
clotted its eye and the cradle of its beak.
My father, treading water
beyond the thudding breakers, pointed
to the miniature ships
smudging the hazy horizon.

At dusk, the dark bars on the pier
stumbled awake,
and the squat cottages teemed with heat.
In a rental, I lay beneath the unfamiliar ceiling.
A bed in another room was moving
nowhere, but steadily.















FAMILY AFFAIRS


Beneath the glassy stares of family pictures,
a girl fidgets in a hallway still carpeted in seventies shag.
In the center photo, her aunt's dress,
garnished with applique, puffs like stale piques of frosting.
His knuckles pale and tight, her uncle holds
Her aunt's wrist as she slices the wedding cake.
Bride and groom wear watery, oversized lenses.

In the kitchen, football rules the television.
On the darkening sill, snowflakes faint.
Her uncle, holding a can on his lap, scoops up
a palmful of nuts.
Her mother sips at a drink with a lime in it.

The tree lists in the living room, but the angel
glows with a waxy, righteous light.
The girl etches her name into the frost
forming at the edge of the window
before biting off the legs of the gingerbread men
hanging on red ribbon from the branches.

Dinner plates are furnished mathematically.
Upon the house, dusk falls.
A pair of pheasants dresses the fence.
With a clatter of wings, the male flies into the window.
The family puts down their forks.
The bird lies broken in the snow.
Something in the night, the girl decides, would take care of it.















4 AM

The animals from Die Grossen Blauen Pferde
nibble at the edge of her consciousness, nudge

with their great, soft teeth beneath a leaf. Beside her,
a man lies sleeping. She feels her way to the kitchen. A bird

she cannot identify sings something old, like a forgotten lullaby.
Earlier, his hands had spread beneath her like branches she might break.

Solitude, except for the tunneling of vermin in the attic,
and the whistle, far-off but audible, of a train approaching Topeka,

consumed her, as though it had been waiting,
crepuscular on the water-stained ceiling.

Darkness is a shoulder she looks over: behind her all is shadow.
Nearer to dawn, she dreams she looks over an ocean.

A sandpiper splits the sky. She becomes the bird as it descends-
gladdened, unburdened, then sunk in the dog's hot mouth.















THE RAISING OF LAZARUS


Escaping to France,
Henry O. Tanner almost died of a fever amidst chipped china,
onions molding in wicker, a forgotten easel.

For two years he recovered
at home in Philadelphia. He told Mother to keep the curtains closed,
sunlight teasing his brow with heat.

Each time she bent her lips
to his cheek, he saw her setting someone else's table, hoeing
a row of spindly dark red cabbages.

Friday, Mother played the Victrola
before a potato and fried-fish dinner. Don't mindParis,
she said when the wind rattled the gate

and Father practiced
his Sunday sermon before a mirror in the hallway, his voice
striding into the crevices of the brocade couch,

up into the fusty attic, its forgotten laces.
Convalescent, Tanner painted The Banjo Lesson, the rigors
of the Academie Julien still forming

his nascent stroke. Returning to France,
Tanner dreamed of his mother, tidy beneath coarse covers, wrists
bloody as a stillbirth, soaking through the blankets.















OPHELIA


I dream the riverbed holds sweet poppies: indulgent blooms
beneath a patina sky,
ruddy me with vermeil lip, cold stems of verd-antique.
In water without weight, my conscience does not suffer.

I wake to the cry of the loon, sounding for loss
below the wash of stars.
Each scraping dirge bottoms the unspoken: too late, too late,
lashes the echo. Junes we watched

the antics of dragonflies. Your fingers found my hair.
Beneath your tongue,
my artifice dissolved. When I closed my eyes I saw Polonius,
jealous of the way you'd surpassed him at his part.















A GREAT BLUE HERON WATCHES A JOGGER


Often, grief or guilt hurries her along the outskirts
of the swamp, the tatted hem of forest.
If she looks for her young, she looks half-heartedly,
glancing at the webs of the banana spiders.
Her approach is like the call
of the tree frogs, diffident and harsh.
The hill suffers her to return, empty-handed.
I find her fortune Shakespearean-
she lopes and blunders, becoming neither cleaner
nor smaller. Or, under the white rush of clouds,
she is the failure of fable, the dark,
iridescent murder of crows. When one hunts,
it must be done slowly and with a longer neck.
















BEYOND THE PLANTATION

White lilies, orchids perhaps, swayed in the sleight-of-hand
breeze then disappeared,
the sun like a beetle, ringed in black on the pale, taut sky.

Fire ants raised their mounds anywhere,
our nouveau riche.
The quail's foolish heart drummed its fury

outside the body.
The milky green Pleistocene wings of the underbrush
beat softly against the anomalous tick

of engines on Cairo Road.
Hawks-no, they were vultures-circled above
the sap, the trees, the shine on your chin

evaporating in the heat. The birds waited for us to rise
or continue falling, immune
to the finite, the caveat emptor of happiness.















THE ACCIDENT

The wooden cross leans with ingratiation, but offers
nothing special by way of return, becomes

less a monument than a diptych in the landscape.
As we drive by, you fiddle with the radio;

I watch a red-tail hawk cruise toward the river,
where teenagers gather in hand-me-down cars,

their cigarettes damp and swollen.
They dive from the bridge into the crowded horizon.

Back then, I sneezed at marriage,
the futile plumage of children.

Some nights we try to recall the warm, dazed scaffolding
of our early years only to find

the casualty of ordinary love slowly stripping us
of thankfulness, empathy, the necessary grace.















EVERGREEN CEMETERY: PSYCHE AND EROS


As though mourning only occurs in the cold,
the fallow lanes brought the air to attention.
Unfolding like a poorly-packed suitcase, tombs
leaned toward the road. Damp as otters,
patches of mold stretched over the stones;
sour blooms of lichen anchored themselves
to ears of marble lambs. The plumes of our speech
we scattered as if they were breadcrumbs as we moved
closer to the dead. Near a clutch of PVC crosses,
you slapped at the industrial mosquitoes,
a daub of blood welling on your arm.
In a neighborhood to the north, the barking
of pit-bulls suddenly ceased:
if nothing separated us except
for the casual brutalities of long-forgotten gods,
ghosts, it mattered little, we had more than most.















FUNEREALLY REMINISCENT


While elsewhere a trumpet landed on the sidewalk,
a paddle sank in the come-hither bloom
of the Okeefenokee Swamp; and my mother stood,
in a Maidenform slip, watching a spotted toad.
I looked at the White Mountains beyond the tombs
that lay in resistance, soft, off-white and jagged,
like the caramelized remains of Carcharodon
carcharias: all butter, milk, and root-

the sea, as I remember, stopped and stood
at the edge of our yard, each dorsal fin a dormer
window upon the darkness where the deer
in summer gathered beside the unpaved road.
My younger sister played piano poorly.
She longed for a pony, I think. The sky was a coffin,
the satin bitter, if you want the truth.
We lived in sand where water used to roll,
the loose ground salty and brimmed with oyster shell.















THE FRUIT DOESN'T FALL FAR FROM THE TREE

Our town was much like any other.
The supermarket was haunted-
O linoleum queens, how I danced with you in a tempest of peas,
and the graveyard bore the best fruit.
O stunted plums from limbs swathed in ocher lichen,
have you forgotten me?

The White Mountains stood their distance.
On school buses we pressed our mouths to the glass,
tasted their summits.
From plywood desks, our teachers whispered, "Don't believe
everything you read," and we knew
the world was flat.

In ice shacks on the Kennebec, we set fire to winter
and wrenched fish from the water
into the confusion of sky.
When the heat lightning of August clawed
at the twilight, we swam in the fathomless river,
our limbs like Stygian meadows.

My mother taught me how to staple my heart
to my sleeve; my father,
to count my losses in a hallway of mirrors. My sister invented
canned clouds in lite syrup on Saltine crackers,
made a fortune, and lost it.















THE AMATEUR ORNITHOLOGIST


Here, dragonflies raid the falling dusk for gnats,
their wings of chain-mail
dubious armor against the crows
hunting above the fields of obsolete farmers.

Theda Bara wore her clothes as if they were curtains:
velvet fripperies opened to the street.
If Sin turns up in a Frankfurt attic, translation
needs only the res gestae of the celluloid haze.

My first wife was an antique ice-bucket,
an isinglass monocle, a flautist tending a table marked
These items not for sale. Before concerts,
she took atenolol, her imperfect fingers

lulled into a perfect, but incurious, submission.
I'd like it if the films again fell silent,
and the dispensable were replaced with the engraved.
Is there anything we like better than what's lost?

In Africa, white-fronted bee eaters eke out their lives
dependent on family. Over the internet, the birds
seem to have ice-picks for beaks; as of yet,
I can find no recording of the warning, or mating, calls.















SOME LIKE IT HOT


The ribboned brims of Florida millionaires
lean toward the Teetotaler's leggy all-girl band,
like hopeful, wayward heliotropes.

Undressing made everything closer: the sock-pile
near the hamper, the country music drifting downstairs
from the kitchen, the oiled biceps

on the sports poster beside the bed.
The coiffed young ladies had all the reedy instruments
they needed for tragedy,

or, if they were lucky, the flawed but happy ending.
I dropped my tea gown, or was it my father's sweater,
more buckram than hand-sewn lace,

while the girls performed on the hotel stage.
What we knew we didn't know, we forgot. Night,
on the 13" TV, was thin, cloudless.

Here, it was raining, as if it were the opening scene
of any good movie. The lightning was a white ribbon,
a white fracture, who could tell?















NOTES ON AN OVERLAND JOURNEY THROUGH FORMOSA

With the political part of these proceedings we,
As geographers, are happily not concerned.
Michael Beazeley, 1875

I could merely distinguish the mandarin's shoulder, decorated
with some sort of star, as he led us toward the coast
through a jungle thick with the tongues of birds.
Choh had been dozing on his pony as we wound our way
through the white mangrove;
it all seemed terrible civil,
until, too close to turn back,
the fiercer tribes did not want us to pass, fearing smallpox.
We were forced to argue in Choh's village-
how suffocating the heat and the closeness of the house!
How unbearably dirty the yard!
We got away by the light of a beautiful little moon.

Many villagers supposed us to be doctors;
Choh assured me they had been disillusioned before.
At a remote settlement, no more than grass huts really,
there was a rumor we would be attacked. I lay awake,
longing for tea, reciting the names of constellations
whose shapes I could no longer remember.

The island is slowly rising-so much better, one supposes,
than slowly sinking. Coral lies about confusedly; the hills
echo with water. Anping is no wider than the lens of a camera.
During the rains, the passage
is quite unceremonious; one lands seated in a washtub
plunked on a raft, relieved to find the boatmen
more agile than our best footballers.
From the Pescadores, I had watched the mountain range
for months, the vertebrae of some great beast







16


shrouded in clouds. The difficulties we faced
were but trivial (a token of cash, bolts of fabric,
strands of red beads). The lighthouse must be built.

The epigraph from this piece is drawn from Michael Beazeley's "Notes of an Overland Journey through the
Southern Part of Formosa, from Takow to the South Cape, in 1875, with an Introductory Sketch of the
Island. Proceeding of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography n.s. 7 (January
1885).















PITY ME, PHILIP CAREY


A bluebottle, iridescent, lost without
the lingua franca, blind to everything except
what it understood with its terrified ancient eye,
nosed at a window not, it seemed, in an effort

to escape, but rather to remain inside, where
the clouds scrawled hastily across the sky
like a note left on a refrigerator; and the rain
that did not escape its own fall,

remained a myth, like that of a garden
it could not articulate, but remembered
having heard of once before, when such
(those wings, that terminal buzzing) was not

the limit of its dumb understanding.
I threw open the window and felt the oppression
of the unending dark, the weight of my body
its frame. An engine turned over

like an accusation, or its weak abnegation,
and sputtered out. A grackle coughed
in the tree. In the station below, the last train
bullied its cargo of sedentary ghosts.















ROBERT JOHNSON DEALS WITH THE DEVIL:
PHOTO BOOTH SELF-PORTRAIT, 1930s

Like a bandage pressing against a wound,
he wears his guitar across his body.
The dark frets are blurred, like newsprint
left out in a drizzle. His cropped fingers
sound a chord just beyond the frame,
the background a white canvas sheet
strung up on a wire. Suspenders stretch
over his shoulders, the collar
to his starched shirt open at the throat.
From his slightly parted lips,
an unlit cigarette dangles. He sits just
off center, moving toward the shadows.















PRAIA IPANEMA


We ate chicken hearts scraped from long skewers
in the churrascarias, like locals,
and spent an afternoon on the boardwalk writing postcards
to our Brazilian co-workers, feeling guilty, I hope

but can't recall. At an outdoor market
I begged for a painting we couldn't afford,
you didn't want, that, in the end,
became the one thing you had to have.

At night in our shabby hotel room, we made
grand promises only one of us
would keep. When you asked me to marry you,
the cariocas at the bar applauded with no little enthusiasm.

Do you still have that picture of me, standing beneath
Christo Redentor, my arms spread to the sky?
















WIDOWS' ELEGY


The killing frost will not descend;
autumn's earthy blooms
poise in twilight. November
lies near but dull,
the stalled season of widows.

Nights with my husband,
I don't think about
the indifference of darkness,
how the still-living sleep
with little assurance,

the static of strangers
on the television's walls.
My elderly neighbor watches
yellow mutts crossing
the street, naming them

after my sister and me. She says,
They do heir business
then rush back in.
More than death, I fear
my mother's closed mouth.

I try to imagine leaving her,
some twenty years from now,
in a nursing home-
the taupe bowels
and trim lawns of her final hours,

the hollow-boned panic
of birds. At night,
on my knees, I put my face
down on the pillow.
My husband's hands

need the different vellum
of my skin. Over my shoulder,
I watch him rise up






21


off his knees. What follows
knows no apology.















A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST THREE BOOKS OF GENESIS


Near dusk, when the white owl began to hunt,
the doorbell rang. My sister called, Who's there?
His snakeskin jacket dusted with snow, he smiled.
Buy some fresh orangesfor the giving season?
Ladies, take two large bags for the price of one.
We paid. The Florida oranges smelled of citrus

and gasoline, were gathered in mesh whose flaps
were sewn with a thick red stitch. We tore the bag
and peeled the skins. The flesh was musty and braided
with bitter pulp. Our mother dozed on the couch.
The needles of the pines were blue with cold,
the calloused bark pasted with sap. The yard

gathered the falling snow. I saw, for a moment,
the garden; spring had brought its usual
bright undergarments, hung them out to dry.
On the TV, a herd of cattle blinked
their dumb, wet eyes. On the basement's wooden stairs,
our father stepped: we hid our wakened mouths.















THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE


Downstairs, the diners lift their glasses and graze
off mismatched porcelain. Women in scarves
trail unfinished sentences behind them.
The waiters slouch in rumpled, cool abstention.

Etched on the porcelain are women in scarves.
Plates pile in the sink like time on a stopped clock.
The waiters slouch in rumpled, cool abstention;
a rickshaw rounds the corner, ferrying tourists.

Words pile in the sink like time on a stopped clock,
the things you wanted to, but did not, say-
a rickshaw rounds the corner, ferrying tourists-
their words are lost beneath the soured cloth.

The words you wanted to, but did not say
disintegrate, a fever's paper language,
or drown beneath the metallic, soured cloth.
Your easy-go-lucky charm is wavering.

Disintegration: a fever's paper language.
Familiar strangers crowd your glassy head.
Your easy-go-lucky charm is wavering
while cypress branches knock against the cold.

Unpleasant strangers crowd your glassy head,
trailing unfinished sentences behind them.
The lichened branches knock against the cold;
downstairs, the diners raise their half-full glasses.















BETRAYAL AND THE CROW


Once, when your wings
were white, you kept the favor
of Apollo, spoke the business of mortals.
You paid for
your knowledge with your tongue, the shame

of your feathers.
Now, you hunt in the thinning dusk,
turning your quick eye to the ground. Your lucid
lonely caw
from wasted birches stripped of summer

buries itself
beneath the skin of our house
so that when we make love it's always fucking;
our tiny
breastbones and seedy badger-tongues rub

against autumn's
inevitable angle
of decline. The uncomely sparrows and wrens
don't linger
in yesterday's matted fur, bruised flesh,

or bother with
the blunt black-and-white gestures
of gods and men. In the ditch beyond bent ferns,
the wounded
conceive the final cruel quickening-

your curious
shadow. We lie side by side
as the loneliness of punishment slackens,
each other's face
a blurred, throw-away language.















AT THE EDGE OF LAKE NEWNAN


Weeds trace the shallows before further shadow;
beneath the reddish welt of water, minnows practice
their odd geometry.
The ferocious obbligato of mosquitoes
is more an ostinato,
while a solitary anhinga perches on a bruised root,
the cypress branches loose
and brow-beaten with moss, vestigial columns
of a mined basilica.
The sunken canoes shift
in their cradles; on the surface nothing changes slowly.

The way the light and the water cannot agree on anything
might have pleased Bruegel, the men
with cane poles and bait buckets
looking in the wrong direction. ...

O, Lake, how to go on?
An ibis stumbles from a knot of trees;
its thin, hammered eye rebukes all other art.
The anhinga lifts from its perch.
Despite this, the far shore
remains little more than a cipher, the green woods
in shadow, the reeds gathered in silence.
Bruegel sought refuge in allegory; but solace
is finally mythological.
There is only the artist, the emptiness.















TERRA INCOGNITA


Down East, I watched the earliest sunrise
tangle with forsythia, sea roses,
and hoi polloi of weeds loitering near the water,
where boats wait in their jaunty egg-washes,
the stippled cod, less abundant now,
prod the lightless floor beneath the alien surface.
The islands of Eastport (Moose, Dog, Carlow, Treat,
Burial, Spectacle, Goose, Matthews, and Dyer)
announce their mysteries;
the slash pines-thin, speckled, spectral-
stoop like a poor man's Narcissus.
The slick, mute stoicism of Sail Rock,
so autonomous as to be helpless and useful,
reveals nothing no matter the photographer's light.
Grazing elbows with Canada
in the brothers-in-arms camaraderie of the Bay,
this marginalia sloughs off herring scales after a storm,
sending the sea back to the sea.

The black guillemot, le guillemot miroir,
will never be just what it is in the provinces of Canada:
the protean sleekness of translation
first reflects, next absorbs. The guillemots venture
on land only to breed, loving the ocean
or indifferent to the machinations of sex.
In the white lisp of the tide,
herring gulls nag at periwinkles, the viscous snails
vacuumed in their tins like sardines,
and the semi-iridescent mussel shells curved like kidneys.
The guillemot's summer plumage dark with breeding,
it too scans the horizon, the distant, shifting shore.















HELGA SLEEPS


After Wyeth's "Overflow"

A curvature of moraine, imprecise and falling
westward, reveals little but a bleached shard,
a skeletal key, le petit mort of palate.
What green there is nearest the house, falters
between the season of apples darkening
the stark, blunt hill and the loess below.
One umber bedpost, self-conscious, boastful, worries
the corer, turned upon itself. She sleeps,

placid Hermione, one hand withered
to shadow, the other curled but reaching outward.
The rider must be her daughter returning at last.
The echo of birds in a metal staircase, muffled
but constant, stirs in the beacon, the blood reviving,
as if there existed such things: the good death, happy endings.















BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Jessica Murray was born in New Hampshire and grew up in Maine. She received

her B.A. in English literature from Boston University. After a move from Boston to

Savannah, Georgia, she became friends with a group of local writers and artists.

Experiences there led her to apply to the M.F.A. program at the University of Florida.

She has poems in 32 Poems, Cranky, and Hiram Poetry Review, along with several

encouraging we're-interested-but-not-right-now rejection letters. Currently, she hopes to

land a residency or win the lottery.