Citation
If We Could Just Sit down and Talk about This

Material Information

Title:
If We Could Just Sit down and Talk about This
Creator:
Stewart-Silver, William E
Place of Publication:
[Gainesville, Fla.]
Florida
Publisher:
University of Florida
Publication Date:
Language:
english
Physical Description:
1 online resource (43 p.)

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Master's ( M.F.A.)
Degree Grantor:
University of Florida
Degree Disciplines:
Creative Writing
English
Committee Chair:
HOFMANN,MICHAEL H
Committee Co-Chair:
LOGAN,WILLIAM
Committee Members:
WADE,SIDNEY E
Graduation Date:
5/3/2014

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Arts ( jstor )
Cigarettes ( jstor )
Clothing ( jstor )
Hair ( jstor )
Pizzas ( jstor )
Poetry ( jstor )
Porches ( jstor )
Religion ( jstor )
Vines ( jstor )
Walking ( jstor )
English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
poetry
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent) ( marcgt )
born-digital ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Creative Writing thesis, M.F.A.

Notes

Abstract:
The poems in this collection attempt to explore the space between people, or, more specifically, those brief moments when there is none. Often these poems are actually about the failure to explore this space, because this space is intangible and confusing and far away from language, but the author cannot find anything that matters to him more. ( en )
General Note:
In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note:
Includes vita.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description:
Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description:
This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis:
Thesis (M.F.A.)--University of Florida, 2014.
Local:
Adviser: HOFMANN,MICHAEL H.
Local:
Co-adviser: LOGAN,WILLIAM.
Electronic Access:
RESTRICTED TO UF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE UNTIL 2016-05-31
Statement of Responsibility:
by William E Stewart-Silver.

Record Information

Source Institution:
UFRGP
Rights Management:
Applicable rights reserved.
Embargo Date:
5/31/2016
Resource Identifier:
908645513 ( OCLC )
Classification:
LD1780 2014 ( lcc )

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IF WE COULD JUST SIT DOWN AND TALK ABOUT THIS By WILLIAM EZRA STEWART SILVER A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF FI NE ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2014

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2014 William Ezra Stewart Silver

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To my family

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am indebted to my classmates and friends at MFA@FLA, especially the class of 2014, for their feedb ack and company. In particular, I thank Adam Stengel and Heather Peterson for keeping me laughing and keeping me sane, respectively. Walter Smelt is not technically a ember. I also thank Carrie Guss, class of 2013, for her kindness and perception. I thank Michael Hofmann, William Logan and Sidney Wade for the breadth and quality rec eived it. I also thank Gordon Mennenga and Anne Struthers, my undergraduate creative writing pr ofessors. I thank Heidi. I thank my parents, Mary and Josh, and my siblings, Luke, Maya, Alia and Isaac, for providing such rich material and perspectives Ther e is no other lens through which I want to view the world.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 4 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 7 PORTRAIT OF A RED VW BUS, 1985 ................................ ................................ ......................... 8 MY RELIGION ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 9 ................................ ........ 10 NOT ALWAYS CURIOSITY ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 11 LIFE QUIZ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 12 MEMENTOS ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 13 DIRECTIONS HOME ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 14 MIGRATION ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 15 A MESS ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 16 PIZZA WITH THE NEIGHBORS ................................ ................................ ................................ 17 A PRIDE OF CATS ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 18 UNRECOVERABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 19 A HISTORY OF POEMS ABOUT FLYING ................................ ................................ ............... 20 DINNER ON THE GULF ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 21 URGES ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 22 MOVING THROUGH THE DAYS ................................ ................................ .............................. 23 ANOTHER MINOR DANGER OF DRINKING ................................ ................................ ......... 24 FALLING ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 25 WHEN SURGEONS LEAVE OBJECTS BEHIND ................................ ................................ ..... 26 SNOW DAYS IN PAWLET ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 27 FIND WARMTH IN EVERY BED ................................ ................................ .............................. 28

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6 ALEXANDER FREAR REMEMBERS THE CHICAGO FIRE ................................ .................. 29 FLEAS FOR JESUS ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 30 REAR WINDOW ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 31 WHAT TO PACK, AND WHAT TO LEAVE BEHIND ................................ ............................. 32 ARRIVE T IL? OR, AFTER EATING MUSHROOMS AND FINDING I DID NOT PREVIOUSLY UNDERSTAND CERTAIN QUESTIONS ................................ ......................... 33 THE FLICKER FILMS ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 34 DISCOURSE, FIGURE ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 35 ENCOUNTERS WITH BELIEF ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 36 VEHICLE WITH SUBSTANT IAL SUBWOOFER, 406 NW 3 RD STREET, 3 A.M. ................. 37 PRAISE FOR THE EMPTY LOT ACROSS FROM MY HOUSE: ................................ ............. 38 A SENSE OF SELF ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 39 RELATIVELY TIRED ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 40 TOWARD HOME ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 41 IF WE COULD JUST SIT DOWN AND TALK ABOUT THIS ................................ ................. 42 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 43

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7 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirem ents for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts IF WE COULD JUST SIT DOWN AND TALK ABOUT THIS By William Ezra Stewart Silver May 2014 Chair: Michael Hofmann Major: Creative Writing T he poems in this collection attempt to explore the space between people, o r, more specifically, those brief moments when there is none. Often these poems are actually about the failure to explore this space, because this space is intangible and confusing and far away from language, but t he author cannot find anything that matter s to him more.

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8 PORTRAIT OF A RED VW BUS, 1985 Picture my mother, hair down to her shoulder blades: she stows hand woven Panama hats under the seats. In a perfect world, the ir sale would support struggling Ecuadorian hat weavers and pay for gas. Next, my father, sporting a wild beard, hoists boxes of tropical colored hammocks, almost certainly the next big Mayan export. My brother, not to be outdone, carries his baby sister to the bus. in the uncut gr ass and listens to the bees humming in the clover. My father sits, leaning against a tire. Shit, he says. Soon they will be in Ribera. They will pass a single gas station, drive down a dusty road to the adobe house where between walls three feet thick, I will be born. They will forget to water the lawn. It will turn to dust.

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9 MY R ELIGION My religion is about yesterdays and last years, back since I was three, lying in an empty horse trough where my sister would be born, the grey plastic walls rising like a sanctuary, carving the sky into a brilliant oval. OK sister I thought. We lcome soon to this bright light. And then: where are you coming from? And then: how do I get out of this trough?

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10 THE TASTE OF ALCOHOL My father, who now drives a small purple covered pickup. My father, who calls promotes a passive existence. My father, who has weighed 165 since high scho ol, who still outplays the high school basketballers My father, who tried to drink with us by tossing a shot of sherry into his powdered algae smoothie and pouring it over Cheerios. My father afterward, laughing hysterically, who lies lau ghing on the floor.

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11 NOT ALWAYS CURIOSITY Poor Spotch. He was our massive piebald cat, who grew, post fix, from litter runt to butterball. His walk turned to a waddle, his fat squirrels in the yard. T hey were so cruel down trees to him, then taunt with shrill and unkind talk. And, like a fool, would drag me for a while, licking where he could to tame his back for him. He hated it. Each time it went the same: The vet called it kidney failure. I think he died o f shame.

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12 LIFE QUIZ NAME______ 1) You have eleven apples. Why do you have so many apples? 2) Why do your shoulders relax when floating alone on a body of water? In your answer, include a description of your last experience involving a kayak. 3) If you could hav e dinner with anyone, living or dead, what would you cook? 4) How would you prefer to risk your life? Pick one: A) Standing on a rooftop during a thunderstorm, shouting at the wind B) Texting while operating a motor vehicle C) Eating Fugu prepared by a competent, bu t not inspired, chef D) Smoking five cigarettes a day 5) Have you ever dreamt you were the opposite sex? If so, were you more, or less, attractive than you consider your waking self? Was your dream self aware you were not your previous sex? Or was it not until you woke again in your own body that you remembered who you are? Was the experience frightening? Thrilling? Confusing? Hum drum? 6) Should children be present at the births of their siblings? Does it depend on the age of the child? Is three too young? Is t that will ever fade? 7) How important is it that you answer this question correctly? Consider your family, your educators, and yourself. Measure the weight of these respective expectations on a scale of on e to crushing. Answer in the form of an acrylic still life.

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13 MEMENTOS A pine tree straight from C zanne spread its wide branches over my childhood (I remember the patches of grass giving up the ghost beneath its broad shadow and blanket of needles). A th in vine snaked up its trunk, corkscrewing around a low branch. I wanted to destroy it. The curve of it was too perfect, like certain unmolested roses. I marched out, p ocketknife in hand. My sisters were somehow already there. L ittle Alia threw herself between the vine and me and grabbed the corkscrew with her small hands. Ther e was a little blood. S omebody brought a Band Aid. I carried that vine into my room, kept it there for years.

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14 DIRECTIONS HOME 1) Wake up. Is the bed familiar? Is there a bed? Is the room familiar? Is there a room? range : 5 feet 2) Look for missing articles of clothing. Look for missing keys. Look for sleeping friends. range : 5 20 feet a sky, conti nue straight until you get your bearings. If there is a hall, continue straight until you encounter another door, or a stairway, or a window through which to gaze. range : 5 300 feet s dark, feel your pupils dilate s bright, notice them constrict. range : 0 feet If no, start walking. range : 500 ft 20 miles 6) If driving, park your vehicle in its regular loca tion If walking, proceed directly to your door. f yourself in your old bed. Of the quiet. Of the darkness all around. range : 15 50 years

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15 MIGRATION of an empty room a bedroom to be. There are dime sized burn marks in the carpeting that my bare feet found for me. The last tenant smoked weed, my landlord said, when I mentioned them. em with that, she also said. Go ahead and smoke. Then she says something about the washing machine still being under warranty, t worry about that broken knob, then f inally she lau ghs attractively and heads out the door. So t his is a nother turning point, a new town, like the last town but with palm trees and Spanish moss hanging from the power lines. And the sweat! I sweat easily and often here if I could be st ill enough, migratory site for elephants, pulling their bodies toward me with their own ancient mineral desires, and they with their rough tongues would lick the salt from me.

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16 A MESS In the lowlands beneath the bed, dust bunnies multiply i a pre dator. I brandish the Swiffer, but am for a moment frozen before the austere beauty of Mount Dirty Clothes T he new peak glows, ba cklit, casting a jagged shadow. I say out loud to nobody. Now the mountain spins in the wash and the ra bbits have experienced a catastrophic species collapse, but my everything drawer is still full of everything, my books still sprawl. everything mile leaf strewn loops from my front door to my front door.

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17 PIZZ A WITH THE NEIGHBORS Shady Jack calls me at 3 a.m. to say ladies at the house next door. Ok ay I say, but I have to write this poem. Uh huh, he says. a circle of chairs in a breezeway. A lady holding a Hei neken Cycl ing express amazement she walks inside, returns with a stack of pizza slices from the oven. Now Jack tells us about the time his high school friend (class president!) took James T I think, then remember I have to write this poem. Hold on says Little Bob, through a slice of pizza. Sadness? Relationships? Sa dness about rel ationships? t ragic self destruction ? I guess, I say. Sometimes. I was hoping for something a little quieter to say Well shit, says Big Bob, rolling a blunt. What, then? Just something worth writing, I say. Something small. But true. Big B ob sites down the barrel of his blunt. But this is pretty goddamn true.

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18 A PRIDE OF CATS The single tangle of Spanish moss draping the power line catches the sun, flares like golden fleece, if cal, not too much to believe. A pop song punctuated with trumpets and upbeat shouts repeats its chorus about the ends of things, and goddammit been a sucker for trumpets Stray cats are rolling in the dusty yard most nights a woman leaves Tupperwares of dry food so they can roam the streets like tiny lions, regal and well fed. They let me scratch between their ears. But not for long, and I think how affection has never been domesticated at best it allows itself to wander your halls and rooms, to lounge on your duvet, it s small warm body resting lightly on your own.

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19 UNRECOVERABLES at the wide gaps between the porch planks, remembering the brown Bic lighter, the packs of Trident t, thinking about past renters and what small objects slipped through their fingers. Last week a visiting friend of a friend lost his wallet; it would never fit, but I still see it where I see all small lost things: in that unsearchable dark, resting li ghtly on a bed of dirt and cigarette ash, you or he or I standing above, looking down at our empty fumbling hands.

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20 A HISTORY OF POEMS ABOUT FLYING The first poem I wrote was about butterflies and the wire of their antennas. My second poem was about th e mystery of witches. So here is a poem about a bat, or about the humid summers when I first watched their black bodies dart across a darkening sky, hearing or imagining hearing soft echolocation clicks. Soon the dark would drive us off the field into t he parking lot, loud with proud parents, and later, bright with snaking line s of headlight lit minivans. But f or a few dim minutes we ran beneath t hat swarm, watched them rush above the collapsing goal posts, the fading lines of chalk.

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21 DINNER ON THE G ULF the olives off their tiny yellow swords. From our table I see you pause on the deck, watching dolphins rise and dive like needles through the stippled surface of the bay.

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22 URGE S Q uiet adjustments of arms gone num b, legs gone strangely sore, brief wakings breathing: i a witness to our miraculous overnight survival in the rip tides of your sheets me and my email, me and my coffee, me and whatever feels like hunger. I have the urge to resist every urge I have; H ow can we see past waking up, past our shared morning cigarettes? The distance in the distance hangs on the horizon, a fog of susp ended conversations, a drizzle of curiously empty texts.

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23 MOVING THROUGH THE DAYS Friends, you might think boring is as bad as it gets: the ennui of a well fed life, punctuated with starlings swirling in large dark skies, or smoke curling from your cigare tte catching the slanting light. But then there are the rapids, the swamped decks, a sinking into worse than boredom. In these times I recommend long night runs, or bouldering, or driving until you find a coast. Watching waves reform the beach is a clich that works, and if you need to speak, the ocean is a perfect terrible listener; it will swallow all the foolish words If, like Demosthenes you need something to speak around, there are pebbles and sea glass to fill your mouth. If you need a simpler pain, wait for the sun to rise, Then remove your clothes and burn.

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24 ANOTHER MINOR DANGER OF DRINKING It takes a certain kind of drunk to make a certain kind of call -to get where you forget the months or years of spa ce, of breaks, of broken glass, that must by now have smoothed, if only from the daily scraping tides. ll hear a voice you know so end the call. Be glad you have no choice

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25 F ALLING we drank Busch Light and channel surfed. We talked girls, flash fiction, the lack of decent dive bars in our town. No quarrels, no darkness in his eyes. And no bath salts just a joint passed around, one of a th ousand Friday nights. Then he was off the couch, running toward our fourth floor window. A s if a s parkling pool waited just below, h e shut his eyes and tried to dive. It took fi ve friends and a suitcase to his shins t o drop him We dragged him to the kitchen, the only room without a window It smelled like Lemon Joy. He held his knees and rocked on the linoleum.

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26 WHEN SURGEONS LEAVE OBJECTS BEHIND in reverse, their slender fingers ba rely brushing open wounds. t a Che shire grin and, with a flourish of powdered latex glo ves, pull a scalpel from behind flustered and alone. A few fanatics pore over yellowed autopsy repo rts their finds include a stamp sized version Symphony inside a glass egg, tuc A nother man, who always meant to travel, was found with a tiny Mercury and Pluto in h is heart.

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27 SNOW DAYS IN PAWLET The bay w indow framed a field simplified by snow. The skeleton of a fire still stood in the fireplace, so recent the fabrics of the room remembered. My clothes and books and plastic bagged bottle of shampoo made it already in my trunk. waiting, an ascending diver, to decompress. Someone else now reclines in the La Z Boy, watch ing a s a winter storm approaches. A radio plays scraps of classical music. Muffled lightning bleaches th e room.

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28 FIND WARMTH IN EVERY BED the man who ran survival workshops said. how often people lost will end up dead. Do anythin The y oung ones live, because they know to worm their bodies into places adults dread. D that this applies to life indoors: Survive by know ing how to pick yo ur bed; do anything to keep your body warm.

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29 ALEXANDER FREAR REMEMBERS THE CHICAGO FIRE I still sometimes dream of it. Wind was b lowing through Clark S treet as the first cinders began to fall. Was is it not like a dream? A woman, blinded by sparks and shouldering a bureau drawer, struck me in the chest, breaking the crystal of my watch. A bird cage fell from a high sill and struck me in the arm, a bird still trapped and flapping within. These things reappear fo r me: a homeless child in the middle of the street, crushed beneath a marble slab, white kid gloves on his hands, his pockets stuffed with gold sleeve buttons; a man standing on an upright in a bar, shaking a bottle of whiskey, declaring the fire a frien d to the poor man. Another drunk threw a bottle and knocked him off. Finally I remember the little girl, her hair on fire, running screaming past me. Somebody threw a glass of liquor on her; it flared, covering her in a great blue flame.

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30 FLEAS FOR JESU S tched souls of those who lived witho Dante Inferno Here comes a sprinting pope he leads the pack around the bend. Or is that Pilate? The markings are unclear. Eith and wing! Is it a sin to bet on angels? Not that it matters. Nobody wins there, except the wasps and writhing worms. They have it pretty good. To what god did they commit to be rewarded so in death? You know the passage: I just made up. It sounds like something God would say. too far from Gainesville. These days the committed llowed sharp objects in their rooms. We doubters doubt wraparound porches. From above we must look like quitters, if not dead, sitting so still on these wooden rings. Even the fleas cannot move us, though they drink o ur blood like wine.

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31 REAR WINDOW Who can resist a distant, incidentally un curtained kind of crazy. We can watch our neighbors bury bodies, snap the necks of nosy Labradors. men, but never leave our rooms. Convince the villain (how naive!) grenades! If we still end up hanging from the window sash, the cops below will stop our fall. Then into the arms of leading ladies we will g

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32 WHAT TO PACK, AND WHAT TO LEAVE BEHIND

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33 A R RIVE T IL? OR, AFTER EATING MUSHROOMS AND FINDING I DID NOT PREVIOUSLY UNDERSTAND CERTAIN QUESTIONS

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34 THE FLICKER FILMS are almost terrifying, the way S unflowers crowd the screen. The easy question is where is the question? Where is the starlet with silky hair who still looks good in tears and knows how to run in high heels? I mean for direction: Who do I care about? I can look only so many places; show me where to look. it should be hanging in a long quiet hall, where I could admire it just long enough, then g lide on. If only I were like the woman I once read an article about she faints when she sees certain qualities of art. She brings a nurse to openings, often leaves, unconscious, in a wheelchair. Where am I looking? Sometim es you see a movie only the second time you watch it. Sometimes at all. Sometimes sunflowers stand together, rows of flickering inscrutable faces, thirty years ago, the slanting light, an open field.

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35 DISCOURSE, FIGURE

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36 ENCOUNTERS WITH BELIEF Farmland, Central Georgia My friend and I are riding bicycles in the rain down an endless road. A stranger pulls his big rig to the side, offers us a ride to the nearest town. of his trai ler. We leave our headlamps off, start singing harmonizing, without words. Halloween, Appalachian trail A hiker name d Lone Wolf offers to share his case of Natty Light. While we drink, h e tells us how he lost control one winter night and drove into a ra vi ne, crushing his jaw. ve died he was unconscious and alone but somehow the headlights stayed on, an d a passing driver saw the distant glow he says, his broken teeth gleaming in the dark. Lake Toba The Chr istian fam shroom omelets. Heidi and I buy one to split. The father, carrying his sleepy son, stops by our table, smiles, then tells us to All night we watch the hotel walls ripple, try talking to the acto rs on TV. Food Lion, Southern Virginia We plan to camp behind it for a week to give my tendinitis time to heal; but a man starts following, so we keep walking. Then he shouts at us, So we do. He brings us water every day. Other members of the flock stop by with trays of cookies and Rice Krispies snacks.

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37 VEHICLE WITH SUBSTANTIAL SUBWOOFER, 406 NW 3 RD STREET, 3 A.M 2011 ? multimedia The artist recreates the experience of being shaken awake by a p assing subwoofer at three a.m. by passing through the streets at three a.m. with a subwoofer. The work culminates in ten, or five, or thirty minutes of constant bass emanating from a stationary position bedroom window. Th e audience might appreciate a small distortion in the panes. The artist challenges us to confront some difficult realities: The audience, placed into this conscious state, is going to be there for a while. The audience is afraid of confrontation. The audi ence has forgotten whatever it was dreaming.

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38 PRAISE F OR THE EMPTY LOT ACROSS FROM MY HOUSE: People Shady Jack Christian Empty Lots Monitor Man passing by on bike Neighbor sitting on porch Other neighbor sitting on porch squint. And ignore the lamppost. See how that wedge of dirt coul First neighbor sitting on porch Second neighbor sittin g on porch New York Review of Lots

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39 A SENSE OF SELF As a child I was not concerned by ladders I never knocked on wood. But rep etition wore me down: I am now abnormally aware of black cats. There is real fear when a mirror breaks, something beyond the scattered glass. peculiar responses when confronted by symbolism acted out: l ast week my airbed developed a sl ow leak. Now I have this sinking feeling Something eerie in that slow deflate Or: f ive years ago, while flossing in Cambodia, a piece of tooth fell into the sink, an act so fraught with symbolism that for long seconds hal f convinced I wa s asleep. M ore, that I might wake. Anywhere. Any age. Seconds later I was brought back by righteous anger at my pathetic tooth, the injustice of floss wrought damage but those inverted moments lingered. How figurative I felt.

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40 RELATIVELY TIRED

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41 TOWARD HOME All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travelers to wa lls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken. Thomas Wolfe Of Time a nd the River: A Legend of Man's Hunger in His Youth Thanks, Tom, for framing toward home. Or at least the window in a caf on an October afternoon. The sun already stretching, the beginnings of the golden hour, the air just cool enough to add a little weight. Even the woman packed into a leopard print shirt and matching tights passing heavily by my table Wolfe, have captured it. You have taken it out of me. How universal of you. Ho I raise my cappuccino to you, but there was time I was even younger the turning in the air. I thou ght some part of it was mine.

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42 IF WE COULD JUST SIT DOWN AND TALK ABOUT THIS Time to listen to eight A megaphone could get something across. Aesthetically. On certain afternoons, grocery stores are unnavigable. I walk recursive patterns. All this changing light. That buried hysteria when one consumes too much coffee. I would like to learn a lesson. CIA World Factbook Loved Ones. Geography: rocky. Language: dramatic. Do you feel that? The almost imperceptible weight of your mercury fillings? eyes.

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43 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Ezra Stewart Silver received a B achelor of Arts in English and c reative w riting from Coe College in 2009. He taught at Chiang Mai University, briefly lived in a small town in Vermont with an excellent pizza place and only one intersection, and graduated in the spring of 2014 with a Master o f Fine Arts in Creative Writing.


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