A Tribute to Brianna Breaux Class of 2014

caroline zimmer rowe '14

I wonder sometimes if the conspicuous brilliance of Brianna’s work is so conspicuous to me because I was lucky enough to be her friend. But then I remember it was her writing I was first friends with. It immediately seduced and impressed me, whereas Brianna, tough as nails and intimidatingly clever, took me longer to cozy up to, and commendably, there were no shortcuts to Brianna’s heart.

To honor her personality, I think first of her wit, honesty, and intense love for her friends, those lucky chosen ones.  

To honor her work, I think first of her masterful use of sound and cadence. Poems like “When I Was Thoreau in the Morning” and “Vaquera Song” feel like one sentence, one breath. Her poems can read a bit like puzzles or riddles. I like to think of her as a kind of sphinx, cryptic, sly, formidable. She is interested in the unreality of the body and its humors. She is interested in femininity, the insult it can be to the self, the con it can be on the beholder. She writes with expedited visceral power, and it was a great privilege to bear witness to the evolution of her style and the fruition of these works.  

— Caroline Zimmer Rowe ’14

Waiting Up

The new dishwasher purrs low, a quiet,
preferable machine running on Light.
The baby’s been put down. Outside, the street’s
soundless, like the night’s sneaking by to meet
someone he shouldn’t be; even the cars
are hushed tonight, no thudding bass, headlights
slither across the back wall, mute. I wait
and count each minute’s seconds, cultivating 
everything I’ll say. Inside my head,
another motorcycle accident.

Do I ask what kept you: how was your day?
No. Touch your living shoulders. It can wait.

Vaquera Song

Cowgirl mooning for the cow
peeled back and sifted through, undone
and sung in the butter crust.

Though the best crusts are baked with lard, she knows.
Some nights she snuck out back to wind
that heifer in guilty songs ‘til milking time.

For what? In the end she’ll gore the hogs instead,
and bent inside and between his ribs
will dream of gorging on whipping cream.

Hook Scar

for Larry Breaux

Ancient scar; ragged hook
to the eye, dragging down
a bright blue so clear it’s like
the world compressed to a pearl
in the mouth of a mine:
all earthly antagonisms are burnt out
by the space between he and me

and the weight of his clear, improbable sky.
When my father laughs he squints
and I’m rocked straight out:
I’ll never understand him.
His essence is all he, like his stone, like his sea.

and his scar, that bracelet of teeth
looped around his eye, magic hook
through magic fish-belly, is all I have
of his history: his grace is that he’s here right now;
He exists for me as he is to me.

When I Was Thoreau in the Morning

Assume the Gulf’s wide mouth, a sharp outcrop
of rock licked with sea-slicked lichen. Assume:
alone, dawn. I beat my bones on the sand
and run, tight-skinned, not she but all body

and all outside, all hoping animal.
A mile out, I swim to the rocks and out
stretch across the water, stretch out and sun
salute. From the jetty just opposite

a fisherman also alone, youngish
in his body’s sunrise sees and wades waist

deep to ask for bait. Closer, we each see
clearly: he almost all bird, arms held up

to still smoke in the high tide. I answer.
Assume damp flannel, conscious skin-tight cling:
none and sorry, and assume, so saying
tamely, she.