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THE TOM McAFEE discovery feature Gardner McFaIl Gardner McFall's poems have appeared in Shenandoah, Ploughshares, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. She is the author of the children's book, Jonathon's Cloud, and is currently writing her dissertation at NYU. The Tom McAfee Discovery Feature is a continuing series to showcase the work of an outstanding young poet who has not yet published a book. The prize is funded by the family and friends of Tom McAfee. FIELD TRIP TO FORT STORY / Gardner McFaIl Once after a northeaster, my fourth grade biology class went to Fort Story, Virginia, to gather marine life from the partially submerged rocks. What wasn't attached to the rocks, the waves had raked to a damp shell-bed. We marched into the spindrift behind our staunch teacher. Sure as the lighthouse, she signaled us on. Occasionally, she'd turn, letting fall from one hand a strand of pale egg cases or the husk of a horseshoe crab. She intoned parts of the seaweed: "blade" and "holdfast," saying we'd only begun finding specimens indigenous to the region. After half a mile, we came to a cargo hull banked in the sand, within sight of the dune-capped fort. Out of boredom or interest, we took turns at the rust-eaten rail to gaze through a cloudy porthole. Inside, the chart room's table stood bolted to the floor. Across the smooth top, a sailor's instruments were scattered. I looked at the compass and log beside a tipped-over kerosene lamp. What was the unimaginable The Missouri Review · 115 that had brought the ship here? When our buckets were full, we filed back to the bus. Our next assignment was to identify what we'd collected. Gulf-weed, Eelgrass, Knotted Wrack were mine, mounted on index cards with phylum, date, and location inscribed. Through the years, they've kept their exact color and sea-scent, preserved like the vessel we saw grounded, going nowhere. They recall that Tidewater day as definitive, like the continental shelf dividing shallow water from the deep. Cast up, without warning, the study of life became the study of death. 116 · The Missouri Review Gardner McFaIl FOUR CORNERS / Gardner McFaIl Two parents in front, two children in back driving west in the hottest part of summer. The dog's ears flapped in the wind. Nothing could relieve that heat, not even the soft drinks fished from our ice-chest. In Kansas we counted the silos and fields; then after the Rockies, all the trading posts whose outdoor curios and blanket displays gathered dust from the speeding trucks. Late afternoon, our interest in scenery fell on the possibility of a motel pool. That's when we happened to spot the sign, Four Corners. We found it described in Fodor's Guide: marked by a low, square monument, the state lines of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico meeting in the middle. It could have been anywhere if you believe what you read. Hardly anything distinguished that point where four states touch, but we stopped the car. A man took our picture to prove we were there, balanced together on a concrete slab small as a kitchen table, shoulder to shoulder, each in a different state, our hair blowing in the same direction. The Missouri Review · 117 MISSING / Gardner McFaIl For years I Uved with the thought of his return. I imagined he had ditched the plane and was Uving on a distant island, plotting his way back with a faithful guide; or if he didn't have a guide, he was sending up a flare in sight of an approaching ship. Perhaps, having reached an Asian capital, he was buying gifts for a reunion that would dwarf the ones before. He would have exotic stories to tell, though after a while the stories didn't matter or the gifts. One day I told myself, he is not coming home, though I had no evidence, no grave, nothing to say a prayer over. I knew he was flying among the starry plankton, detained forever. But telling myself this was as futile as when I found a picture of him sleeping in the...


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