31 July 2005 | Vol. 5, No. 2

A Brilliant Flash of Light

It's how Hemingway dies

in the children's biography

I found in the public library, white death

like a cloud descending, in the morning

of old age, at the end of a long illness...

He was holding his favorite rifle,

there was a brilliant flash of light,

and Hemingway was dead. My job

to shelve all the books in the children's section,

the room of smiling endings, talking animals

who become lost, sad, then found again.

And What's Happening to My Body?

always on the floor, open to the drawings

of naked parents, the shapes we become.

The story: a boy and girl fear the changes inside, worry

what's happening is unnatural.

Before puberty they stand beside a giant cocoon,

brown sack of spun threads, their bodies

a gaping autopsy beneath living faces,

genitalia maze of tubes and coils.

When the butterfly bursts free they are reborn—

body hair, muscles, smiling down

at their own nakedness. A book

read furtively in the back, faces burning

until a mother called their name. No one had the courage

to check it out. And the slim

Hemingway bio went unread, the story

of his final writer's block, weeks spent on lines

for the inauguration of Kennedy,

who would also die from the light.

The last pages were given over

to smiling portraits from celebrity magazines,

back from the jungle to the pop

of a thousand flashbulbs, and Idaho, winter,

stiff hair the color of metal—

he's about to say something brilliant, but the flash

cuts him off.

About the author:

Craig Beaven has a BA in English from the University of Kentucky and an MFA in Creative Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. His book reviews and interviews are regularly featured in Blackbird. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Limestone Review, Nidus, and Notre Dame Review.

For further reading:

See the complete list of work by Craig Beaven at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 5, No. 2, where "A Brilliant Flash of Light" ran on July 31, 2005. List other work with these same labels: poetry.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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