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

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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022231/00001

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: Logan, William.
Electronic Access: INACCESSIBLE UNTIL 2099-01-01

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022231:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022231/00001

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: Logan, William.
Electronic Access: INACCESSIBLE UNTIL 2099-01-01

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022231:00001


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PAGE 1

1 TO THE VANISHING POINT By CHRISTOPHER SHANNON 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 Christopher Shannon

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3 To my Mom, Dad, and my brother Nick

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would lik e to thank my thesis advisor, Willia m Logan, for his enthusiastic assistance in rewriting, revising and editing these poems. I w ould also like to thank Debora Greger, Michael Hofmann, and Sidney Wade, in whose workshops many of these poems were written. In addition, a big hug and high five go to my unde rgraduate teachers, including Sheila Donohue, Christian Wiman, and Mary Kinzie. I would al so like to send a lot of love to my late grandmother, Ruth Mascari.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................7 CHAP TER 1 APOLLO (AT) ELEVEN.........................................................................................................82 AFTER TRAIN-ROBBING THE PE ARL-EYED PARISIENNE .......................................... 93 THE DEATH OF CARUSO................................................................................................... 104 PERSONAL RADIOLOGY OF THE TUBERCULOSIS PATIENT.................................... 115 MOSQUITO...........................................................................................................................126 DONT LET ME BE LONELY TONIGHT, AMERICAN BEER........................................ 137 TO GRAVITY..................................................................................................................... ...148 VESPERS FOR AN OLD WOMAN..................................................................................... 159 IN THE CONVALESCENT HOME OF FLYING CREATURES........................................ 1610 TRANSPARENCIES............................................................................................................. 1711 THE BEST SEX OF THEIR LIVES......................................................................................1812 ONE YEAR LATER.............................................................................................................. 1913 GOAT, EL SALVADOR........................................................................................................ 2014 NORTH CAROLINA.............................................................................................................2115 CHURCH SINGING.............................................................................................................. 2216 ECHO AT THE VANITY...................................................................................................... 2317 SINGING IN THE COLD...................................................................................................... 2418 WALLACE STEVENS AND BLANCHE DUBO IS ON A NE W ORLEANS STREET..... 2519 FRANCO CORELLI BURIES A HATCHET IN THE MOUTH OF A BABY GRAND .... 2620 WE HAD DECIDED WITH COCTEAU............................................................................... 27

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6 21 THE LIPPIZANER TRANSPORT........................................................................................ 2822 WAR HEADS.........................................................................................................................2923 NINE MEN, ONE SHELL.....................................................................................................3024 ON THE GLOBE AROSTATIQUE.................................................................................... 3125 TO THE VANISHING POINT.............................................................................................. 3226 EDITH, LORINA & ALICE..................................................................................................33BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................35

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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 TO THE VANISHING POINT By Christopher Shannon May 2008 Chair: William Logan Major: Creative Writing The poems in To the Vanishing Point often represent screwball occasions, but in ways that I hope occasion seriousness. In putting together th is manuscript, I noticed that there are small groups of poems, in twos and threes, that treat the same theme, but in increasingly unruly styles. I admire my work the most when it explores these themeslove, sex, murder, musicin both real and imagined worlds.

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8 APOLLO (AT) ELEVEN The television went white with snow The black sky hard-boiled the moon. He felt a humming around him, a full-body halo of chalkboard dust; breathing on a spoon, he watched himself disappear. Being young was like falling through a glass of water. His father drifted by, moving for an aspirin, while Apollo worked out trajectories on his slingshot, strummed chords on his lyre. It was his turn to shovel the walk, and he did, because his father was so grave. He loped forward, past the flag pole, his boots imprinting the s now with little maps. His boots imprinted the dust with little maps. He loped forward with a flag on a pole, but diffidently, as if to his father's grave. That liar. It was his first moonwalk; he was as tense as a cord thumbed on a slingshot. Those on board Apollo worked out trajectories. The astronaut drifted, moving as an aspirin falling through a glass of water. He feared he might disapp ear, like breath from a spoon, or an angels halo, if it were made of chalk dust. He felt a humming around him. His wide eyes were hard-boiled moons, televisions white with snow.

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9 AFTER TRAIN-ROBBING THE PE ARL-EYE D PARISIENNE A dining car clicked on its way. In the third seat, faci ng forward, she wallowed in her own beauty. Arms up, billfolds out. I can still see in memory the milk around her sable eyes, the dark hair cut short, and thus the necklace naked and cold. I kept half the pearls after my violent snatch. The others rolled down the red carpet to find a new chain, an offering, or vice. The horses remained; we rode through the snow, carrying the bank-car bags, four of them, stamped with large green Fs.

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10 THE DEATH OF CARUSO 1923 You sleep at the height of noon and hem orrhage through the night, staining your sheets with red Rorshachs. Your tenor voice rings off and on like the cars that sputter by outside the window, casting on the floor the shadow of the empty birdcage that hangs from the ceiling by braided rope. In your mind you rehearse your death scene, e la solita storia del pastore but at La Scala, where a chorus waits, the stage is empty of you and full of pretty young girls hoping youll revive, so they can practice the scene in which they flirt with your character, whos fallen in love with Vivette, a forbidden woman. You feel as if youre full of ashes, ashes from every cigar you smoked. In the end your lungs will give out an aria, their final air, floating through the window and falling to the street, where Italy will travel in the final act of your lungs.

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11 PERSONAL RADIOLOGY OF THE TUBERCULOSIS PATIENT I am aware of knock-knocks in my ventilation though the messages I have received ops center drowned in brackish, pls send hlp are muddled, unspecific, and besides that I have my own problems. And so when other messages said bats sleep in your spine, shoo them before their torpors up, I couldnt own up. I thought I heard a threnody, sung for a vanquished general lying in state beneath my sternum. As the coffin was lifted to the dais of my deconsecrated lungs, the bearers slipped and loosed a Blackamoor in my bronchioles. The alveoli soft-shoed out, leaving the corpse lying on my trachea. I was a walking tomb. It was difficult to breath e, at first, but now I travel with him everywhere. I pass through x-ray machines. When they see him they point in awe at my lungs dark stain.

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12 MOSQUITO Its body was sm aller than those buzzing at my lamp like toy helicopters. I had closed the book, a poets memoir, on this minuscule life, which did not shake off its death and fly away like a cartoon. I picked the carcass from the paper. Halfway down the page the words money didnt destroy my family appeared as mimes before a curtain.

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13 DONT LET ME BE LONELY TONIGHT, AMERICAN BEER Night on a b each on an island. The water leaves a milk mustache on the shore. Im with my pal, Red Dawg, a guy youd run into at a bank of urinals. We re down and out, resigned to each other, to our fantasy women a nd fantasy football. Were not saying much. A redhead in a Crayola bikini with a set of t eeth like an ivory harmonica sits at the bar and orders a Genuine Suds Ultra. Red Dawg asks her if the beer is cool. Cool? she laughs. Its ice-blasted. Lowering the bottle below her waist, she arches an eyebrow, snaps the beer open between her legs, and from everywhere comes the growl of guitars. I dont care. Im looking up to where the stars have re-constellated themselves into Hoppers Nighthawks. Instead of the anonymous couple and the lonely man and the ageless attendant, I se e my own parents at the counter, my father hooked up to oxygen and my mother spooning a tedi ous soup. Red Dawgs grandfather tends the counter, his skin thinned to blown glass. He takes out his pocket watch; it falls to the snow like a body falling through a glass roof. Yes, it has begun to snow on the beach, and all the women are naked and making snow angels.

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14 TO GRAVITY My uncle, the m ayor, presided at Beech Grove Bowl, and Gus Junior borrowed shoes to slip-slide in polished lanes. Women and men rainbowed the alley with bowling shirts of ochre, peach, and orange. Children gaped over whimmering hand dryers. Once, Uncle Victor played a local prank and scattered the alley with peacocks; spares faltered, people stared, and barhops stopped accepting tips while tailfeathers plumed in every lane. Victor died young. When they sent his ashes up on the Fourth of July, there were elegies of ooh and ah, and then the fall of feathers through darkness.

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15 VESPERS FOR AN OLD WOMAN An orange peel, som e coffee grounds, and egg shells, too, are mouldering. The potted lilies on the porch, no longer sought by honey bees, are wilting next to newspapers of all last month. The estates for sale and so we sort the junk drawer whatsits, the statuettes, the bric-a-brac, the recipes. The cat pee in the master bath is an egg yolk, fried. The crossword in the TV Guide is jeweled by her uppercase, and bookmarked with a ticket stub from Guys and Dolls, our high school play. Sinatra sang I did it my way as we carried her as pallbearers. Its gotten late, the house is empty and weve emptied it of everything except for me and the nails that were for photos of my grandfather.

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16 IN THE CONVALESCENT HOME OF FLYING CREATURES A doddering bittern wakes, plays solitaire, broods under his cold sheets, retrieves his coat from the closet, on the make for a great escape. He tumbles to the hallway floor like a handful of spilled pennies. The nurses bandage his wing and return him to the room he shares with the owl, whos bent at his writing desk, pointing his beak at a stack of blank pages. My memories flicker, he says, like the dying fluorescent tubes in this Wite-Out white ceiling. Pin feathers circle his head in a cloud. The bat shrugs toward heaven and sleeps upside down. The nightjar roots in a pile of maps for the one that tells her where shes from, and the pigeon dodges smog-jaundiced traffic in his metropolitan nightmare. Down the hall theres a line forming at the pterodactyls room. Beneath her thin Jurassic skin, her bones tremble like bars struck on a xylophone; Her prehistoric blood is an Arctic, where joys, like lost lifeboats, are hard-packed in ice. She remembers, fondly, the crack of the egg.

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17 TRANSPARENCIES A leopard ro ams your village. A mosquito net covers your body like a swarm of kissing moths. Lucky moths. Your theory regarding dying is that youve been doing a lot of it. Your skin chills at night as youre lying on a hospital bed, like a guitar made of ice. The Congolese doctors assure you the chloroquine will cure you and the camphor reduce your fever. Before you left, we went jogging by a corn field in Wisconsin. After sneaking into that green freedom I kept your naked shoulders from touching the hard dirt. Now, you and I are quits, but I still think of us in that field, as statues dropped from an airplane, as the obstacle to a farmers harvest.

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18 THE BEST SEX OF THEIR LIVES When I took the rolling pin to his head, it seem ed s mall, but I didnt know with whom the rhinoceros ran. The Merry Widow found out, told my neighbor, Boris Spassky, who alerted the Duchess of Dupage, who, in her grandiloquent manner, suffered from hypertension, fainted over her fainting couch, and awoke to find herself late for four p.m. People were by order and file right angry at her absence. Theyre busy thinki ng about what one can do with a rhino knocked out dead. When the moon was his conscience, th e zookeeper wrapped the several parts of the rhino in cellophane and shipped them, one by one, to the Grande Champagne region in France. Frenchmen ground the horns to dust. Everyone know s this powder is a potent aphrodisiac; two years later, when the barrels were cracked, was it my fault that all these champagne fanatics had the best sex of their lives?

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19 ONE YEAR LATER Your m asochism drew me closer to you. I slapped a wooden hairbrush on your thigh. There is no mirror I can tell this to. I hid the pairing knife, but any blade would do. When I asked you if youd hurt yourself, youd lie. Your masochism drew me closer to you. The water from the shower was burning you. I shaved. The steam condensed. It fogged my eyes. There is no mirror I can tell this to. At times, I wasnt me, I wasnt you. We ran at least ten miles that freezing day. Your masochism drew me closer to you. Dont cry. Dont purr. This hurts me more than you. Beneath my hand, your body seems to say You are the mirror I can tell this to. Punch me in the face so I can cry. I did. You slept. My eyes adjusted to the dark. Your masochism drew me closer to you. There is no one I should tell this to.

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20 GOAT, EL SALVADOR I cut his neck with a m achete and he bled out into a little tin pail, but the children sang ring around the rosies from the communal shower in the cinderblock kindergarten. The farmhands and peckish gringo s talked crops in Spanglish, and short girls, some fatall flirtycut lilies. pocketful of posies My humming digital-camera extended its telephoto as Father Gerardo marked parishioners in line at the church. ashes, ashes Sandpipers dropped, crying out their lesson about the sky. we all fall down A boy ran from the schoolnaked, wet, smiling and snatched my camera. His ey es beheld it as a miracle. He took it to the shower s. It was ruined. We burned the goats carcass. If he returned to life, his bed would be an anthill, char would crumble from the brittle carbon of his hoof, like rings slipping from sleeping hands, as it was in the beginning and he would nurse soil from the Earth.

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21 NORTH CAROLINA Your billbo ards claim youll BARE ALL Spiders clothesline your little-used trails. We were drying clothes on the cabins ceiling beams when I woke in the small hours, naked and thirsty, and in an inky dark, my lovers hip no larger than an adolescents. She disappeared. I always leave the door unlocked, the woman in the neighboring cabin said about her daughter whod gone missing. The girl was kidnapped or maybe even murdered. Was she picked up by a vagrant? Did she bite hard on the viol ent fist of a riverman, bent on doing bad? Now her eyes may be filled with pine needles. I sat on the porch, looking out on the blue-green valley, where fireflies flashed like photographers searching for a tragedy. I thought I could hear something hissing next to me, as if dust had been given a tongue and was trying to announce the girls fate. It had no mouth and couldnt tell me of the daughter, or if the winter would take the mother, too.

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22 CHURCH SINGING I rec ited to myself while doing the half-work of church singing, I took my heart to be my wife but my memory of that was dark, and the chaplains sermon wasnt brief, so I froze thoughtless in the loft, an atheist and a thief of absolution. Next to me, my friend from Japan studied Arabidopsis and its favorite soil. Between hymns I longed for the Marianne half-nude on a French postcard stamp, while oil from my greasy fingers stained Parisian trains. The breath unraveled from my mouth as from a spool of fog, and my fingers became limp sardines. The chaplain chanted over water in a bucket, besprinkled us, and made me feel pristine. Light poured through the stained-glass grapes like wine; from a cherubs flesh fell snow. The offering was for Katrina; dimes dotted the collection plates. Outside, I saw a crow stretching a worm between its talon and beak. The music of the spheres is no adagio.

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23 ECHO AT THE VANITY Naked, her fishnets on the lim e green tiles, shes turned on the faucet. The mirror leans towards the presence of anything. Her breasts create shadows as Mount Rushmore does at dusk. She has no belly, and no hips, and is as white as ash. She splashes with the qu ick bones of her wrist, and decides that this approximates music. She releases the drain. Everything whirls in one way, downward, and gone. From this she determines just which part of the world shes on.

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24 SINGING IN THE COLD The fog from her m outh mingled with the signs and panorama around the Red Lines pigeoned platform. She belonged in a museum, ivory-skinned and buxom; that was Sam, my South African, bebopping in the wind, play-rapping her aria, Fair Robin I Love, and sequined from the Met auditions in an evening gown cut low to show the judges in the mezzanine the valley she made when she breathed. The train was overdue; we seethed, chattering our teeth and talking about the final shed earned the chance to lose. But pal, I said youll sweep it like a broom. The cold deadened her perfume.

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25 WALLACE STEVENS AND BLANCHE DU BOIS ON A NE W ORLEANS STREET His shadows thick and short and inked onto the street like a carbon stencil. Our man is lost, his mind like winter, succumbing, an ice sculpture of a swan in a pineapple hothouse. Desire clicks through this hot night, like a trainshes here. I tell what ought to be truth, she whispers, breath lacquered by booze. She fingers the lapel on his executive suit, and theyre standing in the late light of streetlamps. To him, her wrinkles are the tarnish on bronze, her come-on the evensong of a peacock. Ill call you Professor Bluemoon she says. Will they marry on a hill in Tennessee? On their honeymoon boat, will they hold their ears to the deck to hear the water thinking?

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26 FRANCO CORELLI BURIES A HATCH ET IN THE MOUTH OF A BABY GRAND They call m e Golden Thighs for the way my Don Jose looked in Rome when my B-flat spun from the columns of these Palladian legs. At the aftershow party I notice Tozzi, the tallest bass La Scalas ever hissed. He seems amiss inside that awkward, bulky American-Italians body a golem of his bad reviews. I dont care for him or his boozed breath prosecco, gin, or is it self-pity? His gloom evaporates, the more we talk. He asks if we can have a little lesson in singing, so we vocalize in the room, where, a hallway away, the lacquer of the Steinways a lake in moonlight, and Tozzi cranes his neck at middle C. I hold the Golems larnynx down so that he doesnt clench his jaw when going for the highest notes: the notes of sex, the notes of grace.

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27 WE HAD DECIDED WITH COCTEAU the difference between a cigare tte holder and cigarette case, the pleasure of a lorgnette over glasses, of a fortnight over two weeks, of a spiral over graduated stairs, of the frisson of crying like pouty boys, and of the way to walk a lobster (he said): well drag its exoskeleton on the cobbles through the rabble of Montparn asse, negotiating the steps as if towing luggage. We di d what could not gain us m aterial things: a week of rent, a plate of fish. Yet we managed to eat sickening amounts, hated on our patroness, the Princess Edmond de Polignac, though, and I am sorry, she had bought us all that wine... I hid a sack of bees in the white grand piano; when Jane raised the leaf in the chamber before the evenings concert, they beat their wings against the strings a freak instrument! They swarmed to the chandelier; and Jane saw, for the first time, a living sun, and felt a little less bored, a little less proud of her precious, fucking ennui.

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28 THE LIPPIZANER TRANSPORT In the cabin of a careerin g cruiser, astride the teak keel boards, stood ten white horses. A Victrola spun an RCA/Victor cylinder of the Beautiful Blue Danube that cast all sound into 6/8 measures. By instinct a member of the equine troupe would neigh and kick and hop. This was dancing, or working, though the horses knew them as the same. The shipmaster descended, drinking rum from an emptied pickle jar. He was young, but with old gray eyes and an unbuttoned shirt. A skeleton key bounced on his sternum. He looked the largest horse in the eyes, and checked behind its ears for signs of disease. A wave knocked the ship on its side, and the horses fell to starboard in a whirl of white air. They crushed the captain. My cap remained on my head. I scratched question marks on the walls of the brig. It filled with water as the ship took on as much drink necessary to sink. Drowning, I thought of the Victrola, if it were to last, a minstrel on the sea, playing Strauss for what surfaces on the blue water of the Atlantic, or if on some distant shore a boy watched the white foam, he might notice, for an instant, the face of a white horse splitting into spray as it tries to breathe.

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29 WAR HEADS After thirty-seven da ys without the sun, a sailor on our subm arine went funny. We locked him in the brig and took his gun. I brought him breakfast at o-six-thirty, but the night watchman was a wounded heap; his mouth and the brigs hatch were gaping open. He wasnt in the galley, his bunk, or the ammo keep, and he must have honed a fork into a shiv, because guys were getting stabbed in their sleep. Though many men were w ounded, all would live. During our combat drill we found out where hed hid; the aft torpedo tube was full of him. He wasnt built like a ship. He wasnt double-hulled. His arms were scored by his make-shift knife, and blood was dripping from the nose of his dead warhead.

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30 NINE MEN, ONE SHELL "It was here that com pany B of our regiment lost 9 men by one shell Sgt. Louis Bir of the 93rd Indiana Infant ry Regiment, after the Battle of Jackson Dark like a bruise and boot-pocked, with gunpowder gray puddles, covered by cannon smoke that would sound, if it could, like a song on a pentatonic scale, a clearing in Jack son, Mississippi, lay in a sterility absent even of dragonflies, beetles, or vultures. Nine in blue lay scattered, some of their faces turned to the ground, their mout hs filled with mud, hair jerking back and forth in the wind like pages of a book. I think the boy who fired that single shell had no desire to kill so many. They fell when they were ready, like the sun, or leaves. From above, they must have looked like writhing silverfish. I left them their flasks; theyd need whiskey if death is a place where nothing happens.

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31 ON THE GLOBE AROSTATIQUE The m idnight we air-ballooned to Budapest, you and I were play-acting parts from Tolstoy. The cities glittered like jeweled tiaras left by the dead princesses of Magyar. My pipe left a telltale of second-hand smoke, trailing behind us like a sea-horse swimming away. Your hair blurred into the darkness behind you, and a wing of plovers came for us like a B-52 split into countless miniatures. Their wings felt like Braille against my face, like feathery words. A talon had scraped your peachy cheek and I tasted the nectar of the fruit before I tossed you to the dark.

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32 TO THE VANISHING POINT Night. Rain. November. Im playing pick-up sticks on the floor of a train, with a young boy, both of us headed for Aix. The train whines to a stop and emergency lights flash on. Though the rain clings to the windows, Im certain that weve stopped on a bridge. The boy moves slowly, like a tree underwater. He says Je this, vous that, every time he wins a stick from the pile. Hes taken every game. Cluck and warble, sounds the hen, the boys companion, whom he feeds by fitting his whole hand inside the cage. The hens body rumbles as it pecks the boys palm, eating like a painter making final corrections with a small brush. I think of the living th ings eating dying things in the river below. When the hen sleeps for the final time, I think the boy will eat it.

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33 EDITH, LORINA & ALICE A Photograph by Lewis Carroll Three little maids from school are w e and all of you seem sweet, but Edith, you clutch the pendulous, tight-skinned, Venetian-red grapes, ripening sweetly on your lap. Sitting for this exposure, no more than four when everything is a source of fun or five years old, youre at the edge of the dark. You look at something low I cannot see and youre sad and bored with fruit and Alices puckered vermillion is filled to the brim with girlish glee. I know from other pictures that often you brewed thoughts that from three little maids took one away. Slateboard arithmetic, praline almond-drops, the Monday morning pinafore you wore, pert as a school-girl well can be, the Sunday-school laughter of your sisters as the rote psalms pained your throat you knew: life is a joke that's just begun. But the tingle in your wrist when it was brushed by the blond boy selling brandy to your Mum had you thinking this little maid is a bride, Yum-Yum.

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34 You felt a surge of light in your chest when at last you were alone and your hands, though the works of his hands are verity and judgment, found their way beneath a tangle of sheets.

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35 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Christopher Shannon was born in Beech Grove, Indiana, a little ra ilroad city near Indianapolis. In high school he enjoyed popularity am ong nerds and chorus members. He graduated from Northwestern University in 20 04, having studied Englis h and classical singing. After graduation he worked as a grant writer for the Ravinia Festiv al in Chicago. Now, hes got the whole world in front of him and all his mistakes behind him.