“Specimen Box” previously appeared in Utopia Minus (Ahsahta, 2011). Reprinted by permission of the author and Ahsahta press.
on the wall by the fireplace
we can fill it with stones, flowers, toenails, pebbles
of shit or scat or something else Anglo-Saxon and indispensable.
No books on Texas birds, no botany, the rock
is called a batholith, stands 1825 feet,
a large, solid granite dome where white men
fled captivity, Comanche, Tonkawas, a sword-edged
tongue or a nettle you carry for miles.
At night the rock moans its way from hot to cold.
Grasses by the highway grow bovine.
What is happening there? a harvest of lime?
In the luminous day by day, the book was just interruption,
a record of presence, attention. Music
rises from the deep lobes of lung.
Your turn to tend,
to imagine first a settlement
then something else, to wish to remark ancestrally
to note in the deepbook a scent of sewage or sulfur,
while wading the tall grass to goats penned in our neighbors’ backyard.
Logs from Kentucky, windows from a European farmhouse,
not the machinery I imagine
but the reasons why the water
tastes plastic. Self-reflective, palms open. I never want
to bother anyone with my presence,
my, my, my, my, my
not even the goats. The fire pitches
its guttural song, wind makes a way through the porchwood,
movement in the musical sense, not transit.
I rake the fire’s hair, the grate
heats, a rib cage, pubic bone.
A treaty of non-aggression between the Comanche and the first
German settlers here became the only such agreement
in Texas never broken, thus the guttural tongue, the fire
that moves to its end. I am tired
of tending and my thighs grow cold.
“I take SPACE to be the central fact to man born in America,
from Folsom cave to now…Large and without mercy” (Charles Olson).
On the edge of the creek 2 or 3 yellow flowers out of season,
small earth-mover, tractor, when I asked her to name
the trees—she looked shocked—scrub oak not worth anything.
Does one need to tend to war? Night catches
first in the thicket above the farmhouse, stones by the creek
moonglow against the field, help me name these constellations:
cricket, lawn chair, ledger, rake. All day, I watch
the fire from the couch, but should have turned the armchair,
tended the window, dragged a kitchen chair to the porch,
watched the wall-mounted mountain
goat high above the kitchen cabinet, Capricorn,
eyes to the roof,
your eyes are so much better, so self-fixed, so specimen still.
You lack nothing. I sit close enough
to the window to stir the dogs next door.
Photo By: Klearchos Kapoutsis