Three poems by Traci Brimhall
Family Portrait as Lullaby
Your father is the slow dance and I am the ballad.
Or he's the nightclub and I am six tequila shots on the bar.
I am the salt and lemon, too.
I am the snake and the apple. I am the tongue that says
to your father – Take. Eat. Do this in remembrance of me.
Your father, the monologue in the music box
and I, the plastic ballerina in gold shoes.
Your father is the swaddle, the rock, the cradle.
His potbellied heart loses its socks and is learning to laugh.
You are Mars. Your father and I are its two moons orbiting.
You, stardust on the telescope's lens
and the ice in the comet's tail.
Your heart is a poppy – bright, forgetful
You are the first mayapple of spring, unripe and rising.
And this is the hallelujah I asked the first stardust to sing at the quickening.
This is the dirty Eden, stalked by envious angels,
This is the land of Isaac, and of knives.
Things Which Will Not Appear in This Lullaby
This cast iron cradle on an overburdened bough.
That stone doll with a quartz heart and agates for eyes.
A boy waving a red skirt at a girl pawing the street
in patent leather shoes.
A pirate ship circled by a shark that feeds on moonlight.
Mermaids training with tridents.
Instead I'll sing about a kelp[ forest caressing a glass-bottomed boat
or wild ponies bathing in a starlit river.
Your father, his sweater held open like a sling weighted with pears.
Your father, anointing my wrist with a paper corsage.
My love, the fourth-longest river in the world.
Someone else's love, between the road and the woods,
Not Job's first loss or his forty-eighth, but his wife swaddling
the second set of sons she'd been given to replace the ones
God had taken.
Neither never, nor Neverland, but always and here.
Lullaby with Almost All the Answers
The bridesmaids in yellow silk harvesting
pears is when. Love set you going is why.
One third of the spirit entering me is why.
Moonlight gentling the curtains is how.
The angel Gabriel is who. The husband is who.
The stranger next to me on the bus who let me
warm my hands on her thighs is who. We all
want to be broken for each other is why.
We all want to kiss our names from someone
else's mouth is why. The tongue is where.
Neck is where. Collarbone, nipple, and nave
are where. Why: winter approached and heat
was scarce or the fourth glass of wine or old-
fashioned loneliness. My blood on the white flesh
of the bitten apple is what. I wanted a child
to live long enough to call me mother is why.
From Poetry Northwest, Winter and Spring 2015.