Susan Briante is a runner up in the 2000 Marlboro Prize in Poetry for her poem, "The Cartographer's Son", selected by Brenda Hillman.

The Cartographer's Son
Susan Briante

They come down from the mountains, like clouds, like christs, and
wander into the cities. In addition to the difference in sea levels,
there is the stark gap of languages. A new vocabulary writhes in the hard center of the jaw:
mirrored building, carburetor, safety pin, glue.

Much will go unwritten, read only in the pucker and slack of lips.
Many objects get named twice

a plastic bowl,
a plastic bowl with a slender crack.

Translations swell, until the lyric is sung to the wrong woman,
brown instead of black, velvet instead of cotton, some shallow veil of
crepe, or not a dress at all, the water at a certain time of the year like
gauze, the blurred lines of age or the lines that were forgotten the
last time someone sang it, making her much less.

And where he had written Uxmal                ruins
And where he had written Aquiles Serdan    mine
And where he had written Taxco                historic church

There is a time when you realize that anything can be produced in
Mexico: wheel chairs, action figures, rice paper, lime. There is a time
when you realize that for everything you are thinking, there is a
word, sometimes two, sometimes more than you could imagine.

Alive in the hard center of the jaw,
you spell them the way they sound

And where he had written Jojutla             sugar refinery
And where he had written Xochimilco        floating gardens
And where he had written La Fundicion      sulfur baths

there was nothing
a bowl could not carry.

Susan Briante's work has appeared in Kenning, New American Writing, Mandorla and the Two Girls Review. She is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Texas at Austin.

Copyright ©2000 Susan Briante

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