Specimen Box

by | Jan 16, 2014 | Poetry

“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

About The Author

Susan Briante

Susan Briante is the author of two books of poetry: Utopia Minus (Ahsahta Press 2011) and Pioneers in the Study of Motion (Ahsahta Press 2007). Briante also writes essays on documentary poetics as well as on the relationship between place and cultural memory. Some of these can be found in Creative Non-Fiction, Rethinking History, Jacket and The Believer. She is finishing work on a new collection of poems, The Market Wonders, inspired by the current economic crisis. Poems from this project have been published in ElevenEleven, Third Coast and 1913 among other journals as well as in the chapbooks The Market is a Parasite that Looks Like a Nest (Dancing Girl Press). Briante is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Arizona.