There is no such thing as a closed system.
From her journals, I counterfeit:
On thinking of a place the first recollection is the smell and the amount of light.
Beatrix Potter’s parents believed close friendships exposed children
to germs and bad influences.
Beatrix Potter beat the House. She brought the outside in:
bats, mice, hawk-moths, frogs, lizards, ring snakes, rabbits on leashes.
Cupboards, the hollows of curtain rods, and teacups hide open spaces the size
of parks, of gardens.
The large loose sleeves of her grandmother’s wedding dress covered tight swansdown ones
The newspaper would like me to consider flooding:
At the Prague Zoo, the penguins, storks, and gorillas had already been evacuated;
one rhinoceros wearing a striped dishcloth folded over his eyes and a cherry-colored sling had already been swung to safety;
one rhinoceros turned violent.
The city’s skies turned themselves inside out.
To learn the rest, I open the paper like a dirty wing then make the first folds
for a boat.
The Indian elephant, Kadir, refused to move to high ground.
The water rose to his ears.
These rescues are gambles on the best of days.
How long will the cotton in money float? How long will the linen?
Keepers tethered, tugged, bribed, begged,
and then brought out the rifle.
I tell myself a children’s story: Kadir was thinking of the Ganges, holy water,
a blessing from above, reincarnation as an ark for the stubborn and the scared.
Beatrix Potter and her brother once found a dead rabbit and boiled it down
to the bones to study the form.
I haven’t been dealt such histories, but ink still stains my fingers.
Her grandfather made his fortune from fabric mills.
What would be an appropriate offering? What’s up my sleeve?
I would like two jumbo-sized baskets of black and yellow silk;
one ton of rice, fresh vegetables, peanuts;
and luck for every person, every beast.
Susan Goslee’s poems have appeared in such journals as West Branch, Cimarron Review, The Carolina Quarterly, and Salamander. She teaches at Idaho State University.