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Record for a UF thesis. Title & abstract won't display until thesis is accessible after 2099-01-01.

DARK ITEM
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022190/00001

Material Information

Title: Record for a UF thesis. Title & abstract won't display until thesis is accessible after 2099-01-01.
Physical Description: Book
Language: english
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Creative Writing thesis, M.F.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Thesis: Thesis (M.F.A.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: Wade, Sidney E.
Electronic Access: INACCESSIBLE UNTIL 2099-01-01

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022190:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022190/00001

Material Information

Title: Record for a UF thesis. Title & abstract won't display until thesis is accessible after 2099-01-01.
Physical Description: Book
Language: english
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Creative Writing thesis, M.F.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Thesis: Thesis (M.F.A.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: Wade, Sidney E.
Electronic Access: INACCESSIBLE UNTIL 2099-01-01

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022190:00001


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1 A BATHHOUSE IN HER HOMELAND By MICHELE LEE 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 2008

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2 2008 Michele Lee

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3 To my sisters, all of them

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank the creative writing facu lty at the University of Florida: William Logan for his honesty and expertise, Michael Hofmann for his gentle, yet potent feedback, and Debora Greger for her precision a nd deftness. I am especially gr ateful for Sidney Wade, whose conversation, guidance, and impeccab le taste helped me revise, a rrange, and appreciate my own writing. I would also like to thank Kenneth Ki dd, John Cech, and Anastasia Ulanowicz for providing literature courses that balanced out my education, stre ngthening my point of view. Finally, I would like to thank my friends and family: Jenny and Erica for supplying the missing links to a collective memory, Kira for he r lavish praise, Sara for her witticisms, and Peter for lending an ear to my ramblings. Lastl y, I would like to thank my parents for providing me with love, for providing plenty of material, and for never aski ng to read my work. That would have made me into an entirely different poet.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................7 CHAP TER 1 SHRAPNEL OF AN OPEN WINDOW................................................................................... 8 Wabi..........................................................................................................................................8 Sabi...........................................................................................................................................9 Fable of Rot and Sickness.......................................................................................................10 Fable of the Tiny Girl......................................................................................................... ....11 Ode to Glass............................................................................................................................12 Postcard, Santa Cruz 1943......................................................................................................13 Sea Shanty..................................................................................................................... .........14 Sea Creatures..........................................................................................................................15 Loneliness...............................................................................................................................16 Out of Ones Element........................................................................................................... ..17 2 FOUND OBJECTS.................................................................................................................18 Letter Opener.................................................................................................................. ........18 Toothbrush Holder.............................................................................................................. ....19 Post-It Notes...........................................................................................................................20 Limp Spaghetti in a Colander................................................................................................. 21 The Anatomy of an Onion......................................................................................................22 Giacomettis Woman with Her Throat Cut ......................................................................... 23 Do Horses Gallop in Their Sleep............................................................................................ 24 Ozone Layer............................................................................................................................25 Elegy for the Fiji M ermaid..................................................................................................... 26 The Bloodless Battle...............................................................................................................27 Ode to Niagara Falls........................................................................................................... ....28 Manets Nana in Kuntshalle, Ham burg.................................................................................. 29 The Apartment........................................................................................................................30 The Escape Clause.............................................................................................................. ....31 The Bride and Groom of the Eiffel Tower............................................................................. 32 3 A BATHHOUSE IN HER HOMELAND.............................................................................. 33 Grandfather Visits as a Ghost................................................................................................. 33 Sopchoppy..............................................................................................................................34 Fourth of July on a Great Lake............................................................................................... 35

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6 My Mother on a Public Toilet................................................................................................ 36 Myth of Origin, 1978..............................................................................................................37 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................38

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7 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 A BATHHOUSE IN HER HOMELAND By Michele Lee May 2008 Chair: Sidney Wade Major: Creative Writing Korean poet Choe Sung Ja writes in Confession: Or maybe my glass monocle will slip from my eye, accidentally shedding a tear. A woma n endures her physical presence, recognizing she is damaged. The displ acement of tear ducts from the eye to the monocle speaks of emotional manufacture: the he avy glass of concealment and vision, the coverup and the human vulnerability. The monocle sl ips from our eyes, and for a moment, we acknowledge the find.

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8 CHAPTER 1 SHRAPNEL OF AN OPEN WINDOW Wabi You pare the apple caref ully, in a long shred that winds like a moebius strip. It is one thing: red. I do not trust my hands. The knife wobbles, the cuts are small and feathery. I am in your kitchen whose wood is fragrant with onion. I eat the peel instead of the fruit, the waxy red surface tart as the shaved flesh of a canary.

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9 Sabi "Sabi" is the kind of beauty that can come only with age, such as the patina on a very old bronze statue. --Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers We eat in a humid kitchen, sweat at our temples. My father chooses to recline at the table, his legs stiff, dress socks bare against the floor. My mother can slice whitefish and wrap clumps of rice in a coarse strip of nori with the point of a chopstick. I move my fist like a gavel, my fork tinkering against the plate with a small chip in its enamel, a tiny chink in its edge.

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10 Fable of Rot and Sickness She used to wash her plastic dish in the gu tter, two pale teacups brimming with mud and rain. Once, she slipped off a dirty shoe to dip it like a dainty madeleine into the run-off. Later it was Tupperware in the microwave: spaghetti stains hardening into yellow craquelure. She filled up used bottles with tap water, the plastic buckling in the clench of her hard fist. On the examining table, now, she sits with legs dangling, listens for a tiny noise abrupt and metallic as soft-shoe on high gloss. She imagines the cancer must be as small as a grain of rice, inky like a word before it dries, a pebble hard against her uterus like an unwanted child: a small moment, a slip, a mistake.

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11 Fable of the Tiny Girl Once, she hid in racks of clothes. The bare skin of a womans ankle, the bone like a bald fist, a hairless mouse, jutted out of a foot, a leathery shoe pointed north. The woman thumbed through fabric, yanked at tags and pinched collars. The naked clothes hangers rattled like the shoulders of someone laughing. The girl squatted in the hollow of the metal tree, amid the rustling sleeves, and crouched until she was smaller than a teacup, a roll of tape, the hem of a toenail, so tiny her mother had to carry her in a suede pocket in the zippered lining of her purse. On the car ride home, she pressed a runny nose to the window to slurp at the overcast sky. But the moon was only there in profile. It could not turn itself to meet her stare.

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12 Ode to Glass Glass shard of m y heart, translucent blue x-ray, something spindled from the sand. Nestled in its warm chamber, I feel the metallic hum, its cast iron weight. From brittle edges, it flakes like rock candy, each sliver a flattened earring, a lug nut diamond, the shrapnel of an open window. It glitters on hot asphalt, in the middle of the afternoon. The street cleaners do their trick and grind it back down.

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13 Postcard, Santa Cruz 1943 I The wom en surf-bathe in technicolor pinafores, some with sombreros, others in sailor collars, crouching as a wave breaks against their pale shins. The woman in tacky green flaps her arms for the photographer. Her hair is parted and tightened like a schoolgirls, her expression scrunched from the cold. II The colors are washed-out and lurid. The women are pasted in the water against their will. Each face is pale and horrified; limbs scramble for balance in the salty current. From the distance, a male bather comes running toward shore as if to scoop the almost drowning women in his stiffening arms.

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14 Sea Shanty Her highest octave clatters like spoons in the nautilus of m y ear. Her fingers tangle in my loose hair, knotting themselves in the coarse ends. The crest of her voice spills, briny water rushing in a pool. The tinge of brassy notes off the tines of a fork fills this tunnel. We lounge in a garden where the sea grape does not grow, miles from the speckled coast. We hear the surf in a conch shell pressed against our heads. Now the daughter on my lap has finished her serenade. Tomorrow she may invent another, or stop to finger the jacaranda in full bloom, amid the bumblebees skirting petals, the promise of a more tropical land.

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15 Sea Creatures An eleven-y ear-old gi rl sits on her knees in a room with a painted white radiator. She watches an Italian game show flicker on TV. Ten Vanna Whites with baked terracotta legs fan their shimmering high heels up in the air. The radiator clanks like a frustrated drummer, and she opens up her fathers National Geographic to a glossy centerfold of underwater caves. The glow of phosphorescent rocks seems too dim, and slippery fish turn moony faces toward the lens. She traces a small scab at the base of her knee, notices how it resembles a blushing anemone.

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16 Loneliness The traffic o n Lombard Street moves like a stanza tr undling down the page. He sleeps in San Francisco tonight, in a room on a crooked street where the trolley poles strike like lightning against their cables. Without him, the cat paced the floor a week, but now she only curls up like a comma on the coolest corner of mattress. Without him, the cat and girl confuse themselves: the human yearns to lick at milk splattered in the curve of a bowl; the cat reads the paper at breakfast, smudging the marble tiles with inky paws. She leaves the laundry, warm from its recent tumble, at the peak of the stairs. The girl resists the urge to sink into flannel sleeves, to nose the floral-scented cuffs, to nibble on a plastic button. She sits on a windowsill instead. Without him, both watch the rain breathe against the glass, fogging the window until it gleams, opaque as the cooked scales of an onion.

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17 Out of Ones Element They pack the ice back up, snap the lawn chairs and beat the sandy towels. She licks the salt from the crook of an elbow, reaches up to the feel the skin of her nose dry as a corn husk. She watches her husband lug the heavy umbrella like a javelin, the tips of his ears blooming from the heat. The beach rubs against her ankles, lapping at her toes. It marks its scent with sea spray and sand granules as fine as sugar. Nearby, an elderly woman sleeps in her neon bikini, its ruffles moving with the breeze. Her ancient husband digs his radio in the sand as seagulls gawk on the sidelines. They snap up watery hotdogs, then squeal like ch ildren at his feet. Back in the gravel parking lot, the young couple shake their towels a second time to be sure the ocean doesnt tag along with them to the city. It would only careen around their small apartment like a caught fox, knocking into Italian vases and leather footstools. Left behind, it glitters and stretches its skin as the car slowly turns north.

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18 CHAPTER 2 FOUND OBJECTS Letter Opener Sm all trowel with silver teeth, just a butter knife really, with a Tijuana handle: a tiny man surfing with a sombrero on his head. When jiggled up and down, the blue gel sloshes, and confetti flecks against the plastic. Far from Mexico, I sit and carve my way through envelope flaps: a Christmas card misspelled, pizza coupons, a Finger Hut catalogue. The small man surfs his way to nowhere, gliding over an ocean the size of a test tube.

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19 Toothbrush Holder Misshapen bowling ball in yellow-glazed ceram ic, piggy-bank without any money, relic flecked with dried paste, elbowing the dental floss and the chemical-blue mouth rinse for a perch on the sinks shoulder, orifices gaping.

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20 Post-It Notes Tacky in hues of yellow and pink, lining a sleek m onitor like an Amish beard cut thick and still sprouting. Scribbles of the alphabet curl up, encoded and layered: a locker combination, coordinates on a map, the phone number of an old residence, modern hieroglyphs etched in blue pen, as stark and cryptic as a bull fight on a cave wall.

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21 Limp Spaghetti in a Colander a brilliant, p ale-fleshed tumor scraped from the pot a wobble, a blob slicking the sidewalks swallowing up phone booths and unchained dogs with wet fur

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22 The Anatomy of an Onion Mother pulls out the dirty bulbs with a garden-gloved hand, gathers the m in a Thank-You plastic bag, and we cross the dirt-packed field. She empties the bag in a metal sink, and the onions, shrunken heads, tumble around, scallion-green tips flaring and scraggly roots like chin hairs. She rubs each one clean and pulls open the hard, crisp scales to release the ta ngy, earth-embalmed odor, like the smell of adolescence, primal and awkward. The knife slices through the thick outer skin, splitting the onion open as a small slip of flower unfurls.

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23 Giacomettis Woman with Her Throat Cut resem bles a bear trap, a severed insect splayed in metal on the museum floor. I lean over the crime scene the artist has sculpted: an organ flattened into the head of a bean sprout, a spinal cord that dangles from one end like a hoof. Low to the ground, cold on the tiles, a mote of dust twitches, then skitters like a beach crab towards my shoe-clad feet.

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24 Do Horses Gallop in Their Sleep kicking their hooves like Rockettes, nickering as their jowls quiver and drool? Or move between dreamy strata: imagining themselves wild stallions emerging from the furling waves, or overcome with the sudden, dry urge to lap at a trough? Do they forget they are not colts, but rather worked and bedraggled, as broken as the man who rides them, who squints an eye open when the sun pulses faintly through a crack in the blinds and shifts his bowlegged limbs in the dampened sheets?

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25 Ozone Layer Why dont you just disappear already? All you do is hammock the stratosphere in one lazy swing of vaporous molecules. Your scar winks over Antarctica where the penguins flop around on their bellies. They lunge for silver-gilled fish and do not care. Millions of Texans with hair doused in Aquanet bake in the sun, shoulder blades bare. Ambiguous, flossy, massive, absurd, you deplete yourself, be nd like a hologram to ultraviolet rays that sear through the clouds.

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26 Elegy for the Fiji Mermaid Dried out as an anchovy, the Fiji Merm aid collects dust in its eye sockets. When it was pulled from the sea, it was a brassy mackerel. A fisherman watched it twitch in two halves, his scalloped knife swiped clean, the head with silver eye, gaping mouth thrown back to the dark swirl of the harbor. A woman with tiny fingers stitched the bones of a gray langur to the leathery tail, then wiped the torso clean. Now fossilized, strung up in a dim parlor, the fused skull grimaces, skin stretched over its stunted rib cage. In the junk-filled Wunderkammer a few bystanders shuffle around it, politely terrified.

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27 The Bloodless Battle To my gratification not a single life had been lost --Admiral Dewey, the Battle of Manila Bay, 1898 My fellow Spaniards bobbed to the surface like king mackerels in a tangle of limbs and bloat, buoyed by distended lungs amid the chop of water. Salty waves ran ragged against the flesh of hands and faces peeled away, while hungry seagulls snapped at the whites of eyes. This five-fathom Pacific bay brimmed with dead fish loosened from the wreckage of the Reina Cristina. Earlier, our Quartermaster had slouched in the conn as sunrise leaked over Manilas volcanic hills. The other ships beached themselves like whales. When the victors hoisted the charred ship from the sea, it hung on a line like an ancient coelacanth ready to be gutted.

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28 Ode to Niagara Falls A river sp lit like a wishbone and spilled over a glaciers empty cradle. Niagara Falls pebbled the arms and faces of people wrapped up in protective tarp: cuts of meat in yellow cellophane. A gash, an open wound, a rent in North America, Niagara ran fast and angry before French trappers scattered bear claws and skinned raccoons with rusted knives. Someday it will drown the pink neon of an erect chapel, tip the steerage of a clean white boat where Camcorders blink and spectators sway like seaside birds. Niagara will beat its fists upon the limestone to protest Louis Tussauds, where Celine Dion smirks in a fluorescent-lit corner, hands woodenly outstretched, torso wax and hollow.

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29 Manets Nana in Kunts halle, Hamburg A woman perches in her stockinged feet, her corset strokes of blue-hued manganese. The room seems slightly tepid, warmed by hues of apricot and nude. A nd there, a languid curve to one arm, bent like intestinal flesh, an unseen bit of kohl rubbed in her hands, the pinkie finger stiffened in full-mast: a gentlewoman from the bourgeoisie with eyes darkened in a dab of sable, brown thrushes preening in a pallid face. This visage is clever in its still repose, as if she were aware of unseen viewers. She gladly disrobes for a gentleman who sits off-center, his mustache a drooping mermaids tail, limp against the naked chin, the tightening mouth.

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30 The Apartment Our lives are not bewitched by W ilder with deftly sculpted scripts. In elevators there is no repartee. Y our hands are filled with paper, your briefcase handle worn. I am Fran, and you slump through buildings like a younger Fred McMurray. Lemmon is lost on you. We touch shoulders or hands for a moment, remember the intimate gestures spent on winter nights when my heat was on the fritz, our cold toes only warmed by human contact. I cannot pretend I do not crave who you become at dusk. Do you read the news to her, tilted in a comfy chair?

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31 The Escape Clause Before theyve even served the food, she says her cat has died. I watch her fingers scrunch the paper accordion of a straw, rehearsal for a tiny funeral m arch. The words are a wet match struck on damp wood. I down my dry vermouth and let the glass wobble on the tabletop. She clutches a clamshell compact, gladly splits the tab, and I wonder why she reminds me of a colder month, of knucklebones. She tugs at the chains of a pocketbook and pulls out a crisp ten for taxi fare. Im left with strands of battered onion blooming in fry grease. Through the window I watch her massage her left heel and rub a blistered toe. Her hair is loosened from its perch as she totters on one leg like a strange bird in the breezy night air.

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32 The Bride and Groom of the Eiffel Tower pose lik e two tourists who have traveled to Paris for a shotgun wedding: he in his best plum suit, she in antique lace. The chicken was dabbed in later from a scrap of cumulus cloud, which might have started as a trio of lambs. The oil-crayoned sky and fiddlers frame the awkward man, his pants a size too large. He will never be taller than his wife, so he croons in her ear. After the photo is snapped, she swats at him with her blue-fringed fan. But later, in their small hotel room, where the blankets crowd the bed, he will massage her tired feet and sleep against her back. They will pack their leather suitcases to return to Russia, this pastel-hued memento wrapped in vellum at the bottom of the portmanteau.

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33 CHAPTER 4 A BATHHOUSE IN HER HOMELAND Grandfather Visits as a Ghost He slips out of the shoes he died in. Nobody m entions his burial suit that wrinkles at the cuffs, the pant legs creased with worry, the thread of one seam loosened like a hair. On New Years Day, he drinks the garlic broth of laver and salted beef, slurps it into the moth-eaten cavity of his throat. He is part slipshod salesman, part San-shin with a tilting frown. Sleeping in a small coffin of rock, his scent is brittle like wet, woolen pockets or the blackest soil.

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34 Sopchoppy The vessel was alum inum, tube-like and impossibly afloat, cutting through the blunt-nosed reeds that lined the Ochlockonee. After our canoe grew tired of circling the flotsam of beer cans and old fishing line, my sister jumped into the water, her brilliant yellow life vest with the hot pink snaps like the armored shell of a jewel beetle. She bobbed like a cork, her shoulders boxy, and the current flicked her downstream. After kicking at the river, prodding her with the flat head of a clumsy paddle, I dragged her to the bank. She plucked a snail out of her hair and placed it on a nearby leaf.

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35 Fourth of July on a Great Lake Fireworks c rackled over the small of Lake Michigan, a curve in the bank near Indiana dunes. She lost a left shoe in the pallid, quartz sand and sat in a striped lawn chair to watch the wayward swing of a neon Frisbee and bratwurst smoking on a three-legged grill. The children with dirt at their ankles swerved too close, then doubled back. Above the tingling darkness she heard it: the blank knock of a car ferry, empty and on the end of its tether, striking the rotted wood of its dock with the rhythm of a metered poem.

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36 My Mother on a Public Toilet The syrupy, pink soap laces the lip of sink, and a sprig of hum an hair flattens itself against the drain. We are in some gloomy department store, in a back bathroom awkwardly adorned with paisley settee, sailboat painting, a plastic fern with dusty fronds. Through the crack in the stall, I glimpse my mother sitting upon the john, a Buddha in stretch pants. I had sometimes strolled into the bathroom at an early hour to find her hunched over in glazed sleep. Now, her stretch pants seem slackened, droopy at the hip. She is nearly sixty, hair clipped short. I hustle her out the door, as the Muzak system plays the first few strands of something unbearable, but nostalgic.

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37 Myth of Origin, 1978 Father steers through Texas. Mother balances a coo ler of Diet Cokes on her knees. The road rolls through dust. She thinks about crouching in a bathhouse in her homeland, scrubbing the dirt off ankles, between toes, with a rough, green rag. Here the dirt outlines the low-lying hills, flecks against the cooked-yolk sun. Her American husband punches buttons on the car stereo. He sips the black nectar of his soda pop, tilting the can until it is almost upside-down.

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38 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Michele Lee was born in South Korea, but spent th e first twelve years of lif e traveling with her military family. Tallahassee is her adopted ho metown. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing and anthropology from Florida State University.