Published on Academy of American Poets (

Exhibit 1

Start with a base map, unlabeled terrain,
in shaded green and ochre, nude relief,
cool continental mass bathing in blue,
a face whose features now are visible,
unannotated, apolitical,
as if a mighty snow had settled here
and muffled every static line and letter,
earth as naked as the moon, but full
of lively color, from the fissured west
into the placid belly of the country,
eastward over quartzite ridge, carbonate
valley into southwest-trending s-curves
up the coast, a range two thousand miles,
two hundred fifty million years of mountain
formed in three successive waves of rock
uplifted and depressed, and in the west
it’s just begun. Nine hundred million acres
under time, under stress and stretches
of content. Reserved for a duration.
Blue-green grid of constant revolution.


Copyright © 2017 by Susan Barba. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 11, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“‘Exhibit 1’ belongs to a collection of poems I’m writing about geological time. It is the first of a series of numbered ‘exhibits’ of the earth, which I think of as verbal equivalencies to the artist Robert Smithson’s ‘non-sites.’ ‘Exhibit 1’ is influenced too by another New Jersey native and lover of rocks, John McPhee, and his Annals of the Former World.  ‘Exhibit 1’ is a base map of the North American continent, a columnar container of time and space, an invitation.”
—Susan Barba


Susan Barba

Susan Barba is the author of the poetry collection Fair Sun (David R. Godine, 2017).

Date Published: 2017-12-11

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