by Traci Brimhall
You pry fresh nails from their wooden beds,
slip a rope under my arms and pull me to you,
your breath slick with whiskey,
your head against my chest, listening to my heart
click with beetles. Dearest Redeemer, I know you
think you must do this,
that surgeons will use my body to discover
which parts of us die, and prove which part
is immortal. But the workings of time
will not explain eternity. To live forever
you must learn the desperate faith of grass,
which rises out of the earth every morning.
All you possess is the breath you hold between
this darkness and the next. Don’t you know
what will become of me?
My hair will be sheared and sold, a stranger will smile
with my teeth, and as my blood dries under
a surgeon’s fingernails, he will notice
my skin smells like wheat. When he splits my heart,
he’ll hear the low notes of a cello. He will hold up
my organs in search of an explanation
for the red miracle in his palms, but I will not illuminate
the mystery. What he turns over in his hands
is abandoned flesh, the raw shore of paradise.
Traci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins (forthcoming from W.W. Norton), selected by Carolyn Forché for 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 poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, Slate, Virginia Quarterly Review, New England Review, The Missouri Review,and elsewhere. She was the 2008-09 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and currently teaches at Western Michigan University, where she is a doctoral associate and King/Chávez/Parks Fellow.