The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2022

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APRIL 2022 Issue
Critics Page

Nest, Hospice, Prison Camp

The gila woodpecker makes its home in the saguaro in the hottest part
of the year: an “o” I form with thumb and index finger, opening
like shutter to become the nest of the elf owl, then panning
to the legs of a woman entering a creek.

The water pales her.
                                    By two, writes Oppen. We find ourselves.
While my mother died, I sat by her bedside. With cups of pills, then swabs
and morphine. I watched her body fail like an economy,

like a political system. Her death branches.       Here
in the canyon: a shock of cottonwood, roads
build by Japanese internees. A hiker watches a mountain lion
track a cyclist. In shadow, we look longer.

                    The law said “racial discrimination was constitutional in the face
                    of a genuine military threat.” If you see a mountain
lion make yourself bigger, make noise, back away, refrain
from making eye contact.      When my mother confronted death

she could not speak, could not focus,
did not recognize me.
After brain damage, electrical activity

rises in still intact tissue. Rewiring      a winding road
to release dormant capacities.                                 The mountain prisons
had no fence. You won’t know a mountain lion trails you
like a credit score, like your nation’s atrocities.

so it will follow you until it can no longer conjure the dream
of the kill.
                    The gila woodpecker finds its home, my mother’s body
found its hole in the earth another kind of nest. The woman

exits the water closer to formlessness.
                                    Windchimes prove something moves, a future into
which we haul ourselves into and then—


Susan Briante

Susan Briante, a poet, essayist and translator, is the author of books of poetry: Pioneers in the Study of Motion, Utopia Minus, and The Market Wonders. Defacing the Monument, a series of essays on immigration, archives, aesthetics and the state, was published by Noemi Press in 2020.


The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2022

All Issues