Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Traci Brimhall

Traci Brimhall [The Rumpus]

Become the Lion

We keep my sister alive by force,
pin her down and nurse her with raw
eggs from the chickens that did not drown

and milk taken from a goat staked
to the ground. The dull tolling of the bell
around her neck speaks as she moves.

Here, I am here. She wanders to the river,
and we find her. In a tree, singing
to a starling, we find her. We dig a grave

for the missing body, but nothing
consoles her. In mourning, the cure
is the sickness. A year ago, a lion

took our mother as she tended the fire.
This hunger bewilders me. We found half
of her bones and buried her

uneaten heart in a dead cub’s rib cage.
When we returned three days later
we saw no bones, no heart, only tracks

in the sand leading east. Ghost me. Fossil me.
Resurrect me near dawn. We’re always at the mercy
of one menacing grace, one rite, an art

that makes us suffer twice. At night we wait
with our knives where the tall grass begins.
We will kill it or die or become the lion.

Late Novena

I can’t tell you where I found the lion or what it had
in its mouth, but I can tell you all the old stories
are about sacrifice, like the beggar who chained

church bells around the neck of a lamb and offered it
to the river. I can tell you the old secrets —
how an albatross found the ocean floor but had to die

to reach it, or how the soul is exiled to the body,
the body an interruption between shadow and light.
I can whisper that an army buried in the desert will rise again

when the sun dies, or tell you the force tugging
planets toward a star is called longing. A black hole
is called beautiful. I tell you a word’s sharp edge

can split the stitches binding your unrepentant lips.
Come back. Tell us what you’ve seen. Tell us
you met a god so reckless, so lonely, it will love us all.

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