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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/UFE0022232/00001

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: Greger, Debora.
Electronic Access: INACCESSIBLE UNTIL 2099-01-01

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022232:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022232/00001

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: Greger, Debora.
Electronic Access: INACCESSIBLE UNTIL 2099-01-01

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022232:00001


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PAGE 1

1 A BRIEF HISTORY OF POSTCARDS By CHARITY E. BURNS A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTERS OF FINE ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2008

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2 2008 Charity E. Burns

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3 For Mary Welch

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank Professor Debora Greger for the innum erable hours that she spent helping me to become a better poet. Her feedba ck was invaluable, her generosity infinite. For this, I will always be grateful. I would also like to thank my other poetry professors at the University of Florida: William Logan for pushi ng me to take chances with my work; Sidney Wade for introducing me to the joys and rigors of translation; and Michae l Hofmann for his close readings and helpful words. I thank Jonathan Crimmins for being the wit tiest, brightest, most sympathetic sounding board in my small but irreplaceable family of fr iends. Im also grateful to Saara Raappana for her critical eye, her unerri ng advice, and for showing me how, after the MFA, a good poet becomes a great one. Finally, I would like to thank my fellow MFA students, most of whom I unapologetically adore.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................7 THIS IS THE HOUR.......................................................................................................................8 LAST LETTER OF FRANC ESCO BORROMINI ......................................................................... 9 IT WAS ONLY A MA TTER OF TIME........................................................................................ 10 DAPHNE AT THE RIVER........................................................................................................... 11 OVID IN THE AFTERLIFE.........................................................................................................12 PERSEPHONE AT POINT DEFIANCE...................................................................................... 13 LIME TREE...................................................................................................................................14 TO MOTHER AT THE WINDOW............................................................................................... 15 WHAT FINALLY ARRIVED BY FERRY.................................................................................. 16 CLEAN ODE.................................................................................................................................17 ON AN ISLAND................................................................................................................... ........18 ON A PLATFORM, ON A SPLINTERING BENCH ................................................................... 19 SIESTA KEY.................................................................................................................................20 ON THE FAILURE OF GUIDEBOOKS...................................................................................... 21 JUDITH SLAYING HOLOFERNES............................................................................................ 22 AS THE RAIN BROKE, AS THE FRONDS BENT .................................................................... 23 IN THE HIGH SEASON............................................................................................................. ..24 BONHEUR: A BRIEF ESSAY...................................................................................................... 25 LE TRAIT SUR L'ART DE TRAVAILLER LES FLEURS EN CIRE ............................................26 FIN DE SICLE............................................................................................................................27 IN ORDINARY LIGHT................................................................................................................28

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6 BUT................................................................................................................................................31 RECOVERED FRAGMENTS OF SAPPHO................................................................................ 32 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................33

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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 BRIEF HISTORY OF POSTCARDS By Charity E. Burns May 2008 Chair: Debora Greger Major: Creative Writing In my poems, toxic but lovely in autumn, gr azing cows slowly poison themselves. There, lilacs and crocuses the color of quiet bruises beneath eyes flourish. Read er, your eyes are purple as those sad circles. For your eyes, my poems sl owly poison themselves. The true poet, dressed in a pleated smock, comes playi ng a harmonica. She picks apart poems that are like mothers, like daughters of daughters. Winking like flowers in demented wind, she sings softly as a lowing cow, sluggishly giving up the poems so meanly flowered by autumn.

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8 THIS IS THE HOUR you buy on postcards, the hour when, on the Rue de Cortot, a sparrow presses his feet, the colo r of fleur de sel, against a granite wall, trilling into morning for no good reason. From a bistro dumpster drifts the cologne of red wine turned vinegar, a vine of acacia dripping, above the coffee grounds and bent cardboard, the curved ivory of its petals. Up Montmartre, I climb the burnished cobbles where Piaf sang, the mountain of martyrs just another place (even in la ville-lumire, even as the bells of Sacr Cur sift down like pollen across rooftops) where morning breaks and the watery sepia of dawn falls against stone.

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9 LAST LETTER OF FRANCESCO BORROMINI August, 1667 This morning, Bernini, something small and white darted past my window, wings a blur of angles. I once believed I could catch a bird, subduing his flapping pinions the way I would the sharp corners of a basilica, but I no longer pursue splendor. Bedridden, the shade of graveyard weather, I stare at the river-rock buttresses of San Giovanni but those stones, glintless even when it rains, cannot console me. Clay lamp still smoking, watery morning trickl ing through the oriel, I sketch the ordinary worl d in ordinary graphite: the fish market at ten, silver with the scales of swordfish and sardin e, shakes the light, even without gold leaf.

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10 IT WAS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME before Narcissus found a crease in his brow, a blade of eelgrass stretching across th e lakes surface. Before he glimpsed shadows under his eyes, herald moths hovering in soggy light, and cried out through dripping stalactites with a voice that shook dust from clouds. Before he listened. Before he heard the echo of bat wings rumbling away. Always before away.

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11 DAPHNE AT THE RIVER Down here, roots bound in m ud, a bank of Nymphaea odorata grows pale green in the shelter of water, the lush stalks of cattails keeping them company. Through the overgrown boughs of sycamores that hang like shy bed curtains, O, Phoebus, come smiling again. How long since youve slept in my shade! No longer am I slender-foote d, vaulting through red poppies, their silk mouths gaping at you. Come June, the water-lily breaks the rippling surface beside the floating green, and breathes. Along my fathers river, ice melts and trickles down the face of a granite boulder.

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12 OVID IN THE AFTERLIFE Where, once, the trains of togas draped over forearm s, wher e smooth-breasted cuirass learned the shine of wet cobblestones, Via del Corso flickers with sales banners sunning themselves. Men in charcoal pinstripes lean against motorcycles as women with skin of polished granite pass. Do you hear the gossip, quiet as breath through reeds? The folds in a sheet preserve the act of an afternoon but in windows, all is clean white cotton: sleeveless tunics ha ng on mannequins, cartouches without epigraphs embroidered on chests. On the corner, in a tailors window, a dressmakers form hovers in knife-pleats, the skirt of antique gold a Doric column. Coarse-skinned, she has the st ubborn posture of a monument. Her arms, beautiful phantoms, gesture their regret.

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13 PERSEPHONE AT POINT DEFIANCE At docks end, where air tasted of creosote, a seagull pecked the s ilver of a hamburger wrapper. Waves licking the steel, a ferry sliced through water with depths dark and soft as the belladonna that grew along the bluff. In the pocket of my dun-colored coat, I jangled the keys to my first apartment. Up the hill, like Sisyphus, a woman lumbered as she had since I was a child, selling newspapers to waiting cars. On damp asphalt, my suitcase spilled the linen tablecloth Mother had embroidered with pomegranates. In shoals, surf gus hed around a dinghy, the tide about to steal it away. Inside the terminal, people sipped vending-machine coffee from Styrofoam. The clock above a drinking fountain had stopped, hands trembling in place.

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14 LIME TREE Branches sw ayed. Jagged shadows traversed the lawn and I lay, dumb, inside in the warmth of eiderdown. Already at the table, grandmother sipped brown tea as if it were medicine. She cursed the frigid air, her Polish s s hissing like wet wood in a fire but, through my bedroom window I watched a ripe lime that had dangled on a branch since June try to shake off the morning light. The front door clicked shut and there she was, shuffling down the walkway, a woodcutters wife who for years had helped her husband: in outstretched arms, a stack of heavy oak, ice-glazed and glistening blue. She let the logs tumble onto our hearth and the bruised corners of the house trembled as I trembled, dumb, listening to labor gasp, listening to the breath of bellows.

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15 TO MOTHER AT THE WINDOW Geckos prefer the sticky dark beneath garden statuary. A putto who has lost his fingers and the sm irk of his upper lip lets water trickle from a broken urn. In the basin, leaves with spots the color of barnacles pile up lik e shipwrecked rowboats; from swags of Spanish moss, maple spurs swing feverishly, bell pulls trying to call out. At the window, Mother, you squint in the silence of the neighbors gray shingles, your silver hair slipped loose. Climbing the brick of my building, the scaffolding leans in, too close, close enough to see a thermometer as fragile as an old woman, and the cotton from a new bottle of Ibuprofen, like low fog, stretched out on the windowsill.

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16 WHAT FINALLY ARRIVED BY FERRY was summera long streak of fools gold in the b luffs that lined the shore. When I should have been stealing dead-ripe plums from the yard of the municipal building or crawling beneath my neighbors electric fence to feed his mare rapeseed from our garden, I was slipping into matines. In the last row, below a projector that whirred with the roll ing rs of another language, I listened as if it were whispering directions. In dark, the wrinkled cu rtains opened, two palms going their separate ways after prayer, and I heard the sparkle of dust. Cinema Paradiso : five times I saw a boy learn to project a movie on the wall of a shoe factor y. In the canal below, gondolas teetered in th e wind before a downpour, while gypsies wrapped in stained scarves read tarot beneath a bridge. Even as it rained, he stood at his projector, cheeks flushed as plums and wet as mine. He turned a black knob, and gold flickered against in the cracks of limestone.

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17 CLEAN ODE Vashon Island, 1983 Eremurus spires crowded the field, florets like saffron-colored glass. Vines of morning glories, bl ue mouths stretched wide as if about to crow, festooned the open door of the barn we slept in. Beneath a roof creaking with mildew, Mother brought a kettle to boil on the camping stove. Into an aluminum basin, she poured a watery arch, shreds of light falling against alcoves where nettles clustered, hiding the tulle undersid e of their leaves. O wash day! Light behaved as it should then, glistening like grains of sugar. We children built a gazebo of lawn chairs left too long in the rain and then sat at its heart, the stone of an apricot aging into bitterness. Mother wrung grey water from overalls, and we (too young to notice her knuckles blooming red as my face in the free-lunch line at school) marveled at the scraps of gauzy bubbles that bounded across the long grass, having escaped from her.

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18 ON AN ISLAND Blackberries, wild ones, you swell into Julys soft-bodied royalty, and I wake early to pay court to you early enough to see thorns nettles, ditch-grass, vines shooting up and out, m adly curving into counterfeit Roman arches, all still wet early enough, the lights still wet. Each berry clings to its stem, a litter suckling on a single white teat. Go and colonize the kitchen table, ants. I rise as you crawl between two planks, the search for rations already underway: honey, a watermelon seed, a drip of lemonade, yesterdays sugared coffee ring, somehow still wet.

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19 ON A PLATFORM, ON A SPLINTERING BENCH I wept in the silence of a stat ion just after a train passed. A gypsy moth did not rest on an almond tree, nor did the pale green leaves cast their imperfect ovals of shade across my face; not even the cicadas sang. In Monterosso, village of sprawling nets, where warp and weft came together in a trickle of salt, the cobblestone road wide enough for one car pressing against the shoulder, turned bronze in the slanting light. On waves, a garland of brown spume left the bay. Why, Love, did we part? A husband worried the corners of a timetable, the Sunday express already late, as his wife blinked stupidly from behind bangs rich as chestnuts ripening on the terraced hills. Come, Lips, graze her cheek a dragonfly touching down on Lake Como. My bones turned to woo d, my body an artifact. The old Cinque Terra flag ripped in the wind that chases trains.

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20 SIESTA KEY Seagulls hovering over children pum p their wings against the wind. Orange Popsicle juice drips down forearms as high voices bounce like bubbles over surf. Here, theres sand as Ive never seen it: This is not the sand of airport ashtrays or the pebbly stuff beneath swing sets, but sand that sprawls in pure selfishness, glinting like powdered glass. As we walk, you talk and I am supposed to be listening. But, each time I step, sand rises around my feet, and I am watching this instead of paying attention to you. Your words, like sticks, build this seaside estate or bank that nagging fire, but I hear only enough to know which story you tell, I who have mastered the yes by nod and hum.

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21 ON THE FAILURE OF GUIDEBOOKS On a quay over the River Garavogue, in the country fa mous for mist and famine, raw wood cracked like hands too long in the cold. Down the spokes of my rented bicycle drops careened blindly. On a pl aque engraved in bronze, property of Sligo Histor ical Society, a letter to America read, I am now alone in the world. Seagulls cawed from the latitude lines of electrical wires. Beneath them, neon blinked Open Open, from a corner shop: a window of pawned grandfather clocks and another of wedding rings, refuge with a roof, biscuits, weak tea. Behind the counter, an electri c teapot coughed out fog. When would the weather turn? Optimistic as a bucket rushing down the shaft of a well, the shopkeeper scratched another Lotto ticket. A rack of sunglasses creaked as if, deep inside, where ball bearing met cog, all wa s turning to grit and rust. I bought a postcardcows leaving a field of crocuses, the picture peeling from its backing.

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22 JUDITH SLAYING HOLOFERNES by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1613 In the corner, a single lantern burned chiaroscuro. The sable brush dipped into a dollop of lapis lazuli, loading the bristles, and daubed the canvas until a sleeve, then a whole bodice, was soaked in blue. For the servants dress, from cinnabar powder came the dying red of embers. Elbow to elbow, Judith and servant labored. It was not the hand of G od that guided them. It was their own strong arms, the two edges of a dagger, one dripping red, the other blue. A falchion slid through flesh, blood, bone, an Adams apple a ladle through a soup. There was only the keen and wheeze of desert winds, morning breaking, and their breathas they trudged home across the dunesexhaled in clouds of blue.

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23 AS THE RAIN BROKE, AS THE FRONDS BENT with the weight of water and even the air began to sweat, I saw m yself, younger, plodding up the marble steps of Santa Maria in Trastevere, bearing the dust of August. Vacant pews, bell towers that had lost their bells, a Doubting Thomas carved from porphyry, his fingers at a wound not his while Roman rain pelted the piazza, I stepped inside. There were no candles to light, no box for coins or thousand-lira notes, only stubby, sharpened pencils and a stack of note cards in a small brass box just past the vestibule. In pews crouched a few grandmothers in black, not to pray but to write, the whisper of graphite on paper scratching across the vaulted ceiling. Where were the nuns who would read the small words at mornings first, small light? I scribbled words I had not thought worth speaking: Dear God. The rain stopped. The cloudy alabaster of windows ceased its rattling. Amen

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24 IN THE HIGH SEASON I. A spur of a quince, a bletted m edlar with peduncle attached, po megranates split open to show off their stained-glass seeds, and green apples riddled by a codling moth rested in a dish beneath flushed Bacchus. The docent pointed to a grape leaf, virescent tips limp and succumbing to yellow: When you think of Caravaggio, think of the moment after ripe fruit falls, the tumefied plum, its purple skin bruised by the plummet to earth. II. But I remembered Marlon Brando on the waterfront: in bay fog, where clotheslines sagged beneath the damp burden of sheets, he paced a tenement roof, his features fleshy. Billowy and rippling beneath wings, carrier pigeons trilled from the boughs of a cumulus. Feathers raining down, a stee l cage had lost its birds.

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25 BONHEUR: A BRIEF ESSAY It seemed as though all the bitterness of life was being served onto her plate, and, with the steam off the stew, there came swirling up from the depths of her soul a kind of rancid staleness. Madame Bovary Thus there was a certain poverty of sheetless beds, the gelid climate of a room sans radiateur in the youth hostel. I stood, jet-lagged, at the window, looking for the first time at Montmartre: out of a manhole rose a wh ite silk scarf of steam. Naturally, just off the Rue de Dunkerque, a chestnut vendor shouted, Marrons, les marrons chauds! over the twitter of boys shak ing rain from a lilac tree. On the subject of light: gray soaked the rooftops, rusted fire escapes, and shutte red five stories of windows, while, in alleys between limestone, bare clotheslines shivered at November. But there, through one defiant window, a view into someones maison: on a table, black walnuts waited in bone china, oysters half-buried in ice. In a parlor like this, as Dr. Bovary ate the gristle from boiled brisket, his wife spilled her glass of orange bitters. What light! A few reedy candles dripped tallow on the windowsill.

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26 LE TRAIT SUR L'ART DE TRAVAILLER LES FLEURS EN CIRE Chef de Ptissier, your word s were edible f lowers I devoured but did not taste. Only a girl in chef whites, I thought ma chrie meant something golden as the spun sugar that melted in the bakerys wet air. You tried to teach me the slow molding of a marzipan iris, petals arching away from stamen, but I could not match the close attention of your callused thumbs. Your instructions were brined in village French, then forced into English. One must have a mind of spring, you said, to regard the Bosc pear, green and rough-skinned, as a muse. One must wake in the fine rain of flour that drifts through bakeries, must have slept beside ovens, to think the breath of baguette s perfumes the morning air.

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27 FIN DE SICLE Vientiane, October, 1999 At the only place in Laos that sold yogurt, cubed melon in glass cups, and caf au lait, I sat in a rusty folding chair, resting my arm in a puddle of sun that had spilled over the windowsill. Tourist visa about to ex pire, I turned twenty, squinting shyly in the glar e of the milk-white floor. Outside, a vendor rattled his car t of pickled cabbage rolls across the dirt street. A man selling red-bean ice cream from a Styrofoam crate migrated toward the Mekong where locals had gathered for the boat races. Behind the counter, an elderly wa iter stacked nervous cups, their espresso gone, in a bl ack tub as a clock radio played Edith Piaf. Pour aller la frontire I asked? I was a fly clinging to the windowpane, all hundred eyes blind in that clean light.

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28 IN ORDINARY LIGHT I When Crows Flew they flew in flocks, gliding on thermals with wings outstretche d, drifting down like a cloud of black ash. I opened my hands as if to catch those charred fragments in icy palms. After your funeral, I sat in a pew at old St. Joes. The priest carved crosses in the air with his fingers, and I watched dust drift in columns of ordinary light, slipping through the broken details a fold in a robe, a petal extracted from a fleur-de-lys in the stained-glass window of a Nativity scene. I remembered how snow fell in the triangles cast by streetlamps. Downstairs, another r ound of rusty laughter from our parents, their party, but not from you. Flakes like white carnations came down on the vacant gravel driveway. Snow turned to silence. in memory of Sean LeCompte (1980-1995)

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29 II. Out of the Marram Grass you hauled driftwood, Brother, spotted like the soft brown hide of an appaloosa: four fat logs to serve as limbs, a shipping crate for the ribcage. From the deep, waves capped with ice leapt up like guard dogs, mouths frothing, as I waded ankle-deep, rinsing out the sardine cans from lunch hooves for our Trojan. That night, the moon flowered red. Do gods exist? In shallows, anemones opened and closed their wrinkly mouths in shifting currents, but all we heard was a bell embayed in fog. How we had believed the Puget Sound would be our adopted parent, rocking us across its miles of eddying blue. Reeds of winter tamarisk hurtled down the hillside, the black sky dripping tears. In the belly of our horse, we slept as the soon-to-be-born, balled up like fists and smelling of salt.

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30 III. After the Feria Seville On a crate emptied of blood oranges, an abuela in black sang to castanets. The bartender tapped his finger against a carafe as chords stumbled off the strings of a tired guitar and I heard, from twenty years back, the twinge of an E string breaking, steel frets throwing dim light against the living room wall: three in the morning, th e house reeking still of whiskey. All night father had sunk deeper into Naugahyde, pint glass sw eating in his callused fist. At last the television slept. A guitar pick between his clenched teeth, my teenage brother tilted an ear to the record player, listening to the only sound left in the house Good morning, heartache. A whole restaurant of forks crashed onto ceramic dinner plates, the abuelas voice the hollow rumble of a wine bot tle rolling across floorboards, barely above a whisper.

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31 BUT on the beach at Thessaloniki, rain had eroded the f ace of the bronze statue, flattening his cheekbones, the fullness of his lips. In the bright, sulfured afternoon, our eyes burned as a wedding party posed, the brides heels sinking into sand while the groom twirled a lock of her brown hair around his finger as if spooling expensive yarn. With a voice as thin as her wrists, she laughed, almost in harmony with the worn-out fan belt of a passing bread truck. On Alexanders shoulder, a seagu ll tucked its head beneath a wing. Even Alexander had been embalmed in honey.

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32 RECOVERED FRAGMENTS OF SAPPHO 79A I, a black-brown co lt, hooves glinting, in a parade of beasts, wail! And ask you, sacrifice whatever small thing you can spare. The gods do not shake their heads at a capful of white wine poured out for them, and if not that: honey and water. 79B Even I know, sister, of all the guests dancing on my wedding day, you were the most beautiful. And my groom, he thought so, too. When you braid your hair, uncovering a white neck, ears pierced with gold hoops, even now he shines in answer to you. All because I hid my thoughts of a secret wooded place along the river where women bathe. Take my ornament for your hair, and I will leave, pretending to be newly ripe for happiness.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Charity Burns was born and raised on Vashon, a sm all island in the Puget Sound inhabited primarily by hippies. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts de gree in creative writing from the University of Washington. Her poetry is forthcoming in Smartish Pace and the Spoon River Poetry Review. She has been nominated for the Best New Poets 2008