Traci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins (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, Ploughshares, New England Review, The Missouri Review, and Best American Poetry 2013. She’s received fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the King/Chávez/Parks Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Mistaking Fortune with Future
You say it will be winter then—you will be folded
in snow, a wolf herding starlings into your hands.
Unremarkable body in remarkable pain. If my sheets
are empty of sonnets, our desires will turn to hot wax
and handcuffs. Broken clock gears will gather in
my locket, their teeth turning to rust, rattle. Nymphs
will wake from their seven year sleep and crawl out
of the earth. Stars will shift from Aries to Taurus,
sky ruled by a new house. Oh luckless rattle of teeth,
the shipwreck will rise. When it comes for you, take hold.
How the Serpent King’s Daughter Received Her Wings
Back before the jungle was used hard for rubber and pulp,
back when night lived on the river bottom and cacao beans
roasted on their stems, the Serpent King’s daughter swung
through branches by her tail in a macaw feathered coat.
A woman with a mustache and glass eye offered her a wallet
full of odes to money, so she fled. A bald woman suggested
a foot massage for a feather, but she spat in her hair—The book
you’ve trusted your whole life will betray you. She met a naked girl
with a scar on her left arm and stumps of horns on her temples.
Our father who art in chains and bearing it. Our mother who put him there,
and rightly so, the horned girl said and tendered a leprous heart
pitted like stone fruit. The Serpent King’s daughter kissed it,
felt a weak wall of the muscle give, slipped a finger into the slit
in her sister’s back until the tricky ventriloquist slithered out.