Back to Issue Thirty-Five

Cold, Crazy, Broken


At the end of it all he accused: You always had good
self-preservation instincts. Oh my selfish survival. I don’t
regret it, though I’m sorry I held his breath between
my horns until he explained me to myself, said cold
said crazy said broken, like an owl donating a mouse’s
bones to the barn floor, an archaeology of gray.
The end was a table set for twelve, a daisy sharpening
each glass of milk. Before the end, it was like the story
of a woman who woke to her pet constrictor stretched
out against her in bed, tail hooked to toe, split tongue
tasting the salt of her dream, each vein hot with her sleep,
and her veterinarian warned the beloved serpent was
measuring to see if she’d fit. I’ve woken like that, needed
a doctor to say: Let it go. You did everything you could.

At the end, he looked at me, eyes brown and delicate
as a fossil in limestone and said my love was too weak
to keep him alive. God, I am tired of fetishizing resilience.
I’m ready for a breviary of arrows nocked and aimed
at the blood-dam between rib and rib, tongue lapping
at the garden’s gold riot, the sorority of coneflowers
posing for finches suspicious of a synonym that close
to God’s heart. I’m ready for a love with hope in it—
plausible, living, holy in its listening, like my pothos
perking when I sing to its vines, or the raven I brush
the wrong way to reveal behind the dark of its feathers
the deeper dark of its hearing. Listen, I become the story
of me—cold as mint, crazy as holding my shadow’s hand,
broken as night when the new moon rises through it.



Prayer Against Diagnosis


Lord, loosen your belt of light. Hold your fists as open
as an unread psalm, extinct as kings. I gave myself naked
to your swans, crowned and bloodied, and sank like belief.

Darling Mountain Fire, swear my mother and I are different
enough. Her heart, a babel of magpies. My heart hived
to the white funeral of hours. I grieve quietly, like a parent

after crafting a knife of snow. Oh now voices, the voices.
My fantasies of faith are not like hers. Dead rabbits
don’t cry when vultures discover them. They’re dahlias.



Traci Brimhall is the author of four collections of poetry: Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod (Copper Canyon 2020); Saudade (Copper Canyon Press); Our Lady of the Ruins (W.W. Norton), winner of the 2011 Barnard Women Poets Prize; and Rookery (Southern Illinois University Press), winner of the 2009 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Her work has appeared recently appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Ploughshares, The Nation, The Believer, and Best American Poetry. She’s directs the creative writing program at Kansas State University and lives in Manhattan, KS (The Little Apple).

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