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About this poet

Traci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins (W. W. Norton, 2012). She teaches at Kansas State University and lives in Manhattan, Kansas.

Our Bodies Break Light

Traci Brimhall
We crawl through the tall grass and idle light,

our chests against the earth so we can hear the river


underground. Our backs carry rotting wood and books

that hold no stories of damnation or miracles.


One day as we listen for water, we find a beekeeper—

one eye pearled by a cataract, the other cut out by his own hand


so he might know both types of blindness. When we stand

in front of him, he says we are prisms breaking light into color—


our right shoulders red, our left hips a wavering indigo.

His apiaries are empty except for dead queens, and he sits


on his quiet boxes humming as he licks honey from the bodies

of drones. He tells me he smelled my southern skin for miles,


says the graveyard is full of dead prophets. To you, he presents

his arms, tattooed with songs slave catchers whistle


as they unleash the dogs. He lets you see the burns on his chest

from the time he set fire to boats and pushed them out to sea.


You ask why no one believes in madness anymore,

and he tells you stars need a darkness to see themselves by.


When you ask about resurrection, he says, How can you doubt?

and shows you a deer licking salt from a lynched man's palm.

From Our Lady of the Ruins: Poems by Traci Brimhall. Copyright © 2012 by Traci Brimhall. Reprinted with permission of W. W. Norton & Co. All rights reserved.

From Our Lady of the Ruins: Poems by Traci Brimhall. Copyright © 2012 by Traci Brimhall. Reprinted with permission of W. W. Norton & Co. All rights reserved.

Traci Brimhall

Traci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins (W. W. Norton, 2012). She teaches at Kansas State University and lives in Manhattan, Kansas.

by this poet

poem
The first time I saw my mother, she'd been dead 
fourteen years and came as a ghost in the mirror, 

plucking the hair beneath her arms, and humming 
a bossa nova. She lotioned her chapped heels 

and padded her bra as if she were alive in the old way. 
She said I was born with my cord wrapped 

around my neck
poem

Before she died, my mother told me
I’d make the monster that would kill me,
so I knew this was someone else’s death
creeping into my field, butchering my cow.
I recognized its lone eye and two mouths.
Perhaps it mistook the lowing for the call
of its own kind. I didn’t mind the heifer

poem

Posters for the missing kapok tree appear on streetlights
offering a reward for its safe return. I hate to spoil it,

but the end of every biography is death. The end of a city
in the rainforest is a legend and a lost expedition. The end

of mythology is forgetfulness, placing gifts in the hole