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  • Ofelia Has Not Seen Even One of the Seven Wonders of the World, and People Keep Making New Lists, and: Letters to Phryne
  • Alexandra Teague (bio)

Ofelia Has Not Seen Even One of the Seven Wonders of the World, and People Keep Making New Lists

Now the largest poll on record gives her this:Christ the Redeemer: the tower, the martyr, the untouchablejetliner wings of his grace. Standing underneath,could a girl even see his face (struck twice by lightning),

or would she still be left imagining how he blessesthe sky: its sins of diffusion and cumulus? Her eyespulled up and up, like a flag raising off-key

bugle dawns at summer camp. Grass stickering her ankles.It mattered—for some reason—just to stand there. To feel

responsible for morning, which would happenanyway, which is maybe all wonder is: the Taj Mahal’s whiteminarets holding up grief as perfect symmetry—

as every single person born will die—a chainso much longer than the Great Wall. All that rammed earth and hope

and erosion. And the story, for centuries, you could seeit from the moon. As if most people. As if a strandof human hair a mile away. It makes her wonderif we just want something huge enough to outlast our not

knowing if it really outlasts us. Those pyramids—Chichén Itzá, Giza in a country of car bombs: so muchsand colored like stone like sun it must be likestanding behind your own eyelids on a bright day: [End Page 53]

phosphenes of ancient wonder, not real light: something firingin your mind. All the gods buried in catsuitsof lapis and gold, and the tourists lining up like bottles

at a carnival: throw the ring of I have been the sizeof greatness around the neck. The game isn’t rigged,

just impossible. A single perfect toss will win a big plush squid,a tiger dangling like a striped stalactite. Mammoth Cave.The London sewers. Hoover Dam. A snow cone

melting like the polar ice (still the topof 7 Wonders to Visit Before They’re Gone) on your hands. Christcan’t even save his own. One finger broken off

in a second storm. She wants to say: They don’t make godslike they used to, but that’s probably not true either.

You don’t get to travel back in time to wonder, butshe’d like to. Once, in ancient Rome, the aurora borealisflared so bright, firemen rushed out and tried to extinguish the sky. [End Page 54]

Letters to Phryne

From the Sip ’N Dip Mermaid Bar, Great Falls, Montana

I’m trying to understand pity that mightjust be lust. Those judges calling you impioustil you bared your breasts in court to proveyou were too beautiful to hurt. I’m thinkingit must be nice to be a mermaid, evenif you’re not, like Daryl Hannah, who swam hereeveryone reports until it starts to sounddubious. To be the first Aphrodite. Virtue:sure, yet amphibious. Like piano-bar musicplayed by someone very old who saysthese are standards so everyone mumblesbecause they ought to know. Girl meets boy. Boypaints her rising from the sea. The paintingis lost. Their eyes not like water around you,not towel or robe. A crime of grace,a later model writes, wanting to posefor your story. Look what you left us: lala la la. We still fall in love with what hurts us. We stillwant to swim naked and it’s still not allowed.Want rumor just once to fit inside the truthlike beauty inside the soft fat of a breast, a scaleinside a sequin. [End Page 55]

From the Houston Street Bakery, Fort Worth, Texas

Who cares if it doesn’t exist now? Those cases holdcream-puff swans as sure as historyholds you. Whipped feathers floating inside glass.

Was it true Hyperides thought to undress you? He—ghostwriterturned to bodice ripper. He was said to be clever.Oratory as the art of praying: for dresses to be breasts...


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