I haven’t written a love poem before now because I hoped you’d notice the roasted snake served with cinnamon apples, or see the dictionary of endearments I carved into the floors, or realize I storyboarded our six weeks of love on the back of your shirt. As long as the moon husbands the stars, I’ll let parishioners place coins in my open mouth as you pass me down the aisles. I’ll bolt jackalope busts to the bar wall. I’ll dress like a horse for you, harness for you, jingle and canter for you, but I won’t go to the river. I saw what waits there. It’s not a god but has a god inside it. Baptizing me in my sleep doesn’t count. We both know that. The malagueta bouquet won’t persuade me. The cilice crowning my thigh can’t convince me either. You dressed my toes as archangels without swords, carved crucifixes on my shoes, mixed holy water in my shampoo before I realized you don’t know how much your vow will make us suffer, but I do. [End Page 185]
The Unverifiable Resurrection of Adão da Barco
First, a tourist finds a poem in the leper colony, carved in a kapok, ants swarming sap in the cuts. Then a fisherman uncovers instructions for a rain dance, an usher discovers recipes for the jubilee.
A riverboat captain comes to town and leads them to a tree in the north describing the mating habits of the marabunta, to one in the south with an ode to plums. In the west, a sonnet about a hen named Lucifer
whose fiendish eggs buzzed but when opened held only wings and stingers. The town banishes him when he lashes himself to a poem and scratches out the last two lines but invites him back when a psalm
about the bastard tongue of Jesus’s sister appears in the east. No one believes the boy he carries off the boat is his own, not even when he shows them the statue of the sundered madonna whose toothsome breasts
smell like the common, vulgar sweetness of maracuja. A mule, wasp-stung and raging, tramples the child in front of an elegy for Lazarus’s wife. The town collects mummified hummingbirds for the boy’s pockets,
but the captain returns from the jungle with something dripping from his knife—pulsing, doubtless, radiant. What could bring back a son. What in God’s name was sweet, is sweet, will be sweeter after sundering. [End Page 186]
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, Missouri Review, and Best American Poetry. She has received fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the King/Chávez/Parks Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.