Skip to content
Contact USI

Numb Aubade with Bloodhound

by Traci Brimhall

After, I tried to dress suffering up like a plan,
         but I couldn’t tell the difference between

         debridement and licking a wound to keep it
as open as a confessional. I watched an eclipse

revise itself into moonlight wearing nothing
         but a veil. I didn’t expect the ardor maddening

         into grief or how therapy could only scab
a marriage for an afternoon. Not the way my leg

inched away in bed. Not the way I fell through
         a tree like a ghostbird or how a bloodhound

         led me to the wound’s evidence in the wild.
At first, I wanted yesterdays folded into tomorrows,

an accordion string of paper dolls each holding
         the same dedication to kindness. But tomorrow

         foreshadowed thirty-three boxes of books
and the guest room mattress. The future was culinary,

volcanic, a cherry pie with obsidian crust. It asked me
         to be less of a shapeshifting messiah, and more

         the god a girl needs, more mother than I wanted.
So I let my shame be collaborative and tragic,

like an arsonist dying in a stranger’s fire.
         For years, my mirror tried to embarrass me.

         I brushed my teeth, naked and alone. But
the saddest parts of my body were gorgeous,

radiant with vulnerability—apathetic belly,
         knotted upper back, my morning whimper

         and limp before the medication kicked in.
I grew tired of hurting, of time’s didactic

gloss revising loss into lessons. I still flossed
         but stopped listing my gratitude for good coffee

         on sale, for the stranger whistling outside
my office, for paying off the credit card.

I even numbed to roadside ditches, those
         oubliettes for litter and hawk feathers, until

         wild sunflowers shook my attention there.
I lost myself. It was a normal mortal

loneliness until the bloodhound bounded
         out of the wilderness—how loyal, how

         unlike me—my heart in his mouth as he shook it.
Joyful, he returned my pain like a gift, and I took it.

Sometimes you fall out of love, even with something you say you’ll love forever. When I was younger, I couldn’t imagine ever feeling anything but passionate commitment and fascination with poetry, but that love did wane. For the past couple of years I’ve been writing back to some of my earliest poems from graduate school as a way to court my old flame and bring back some of that heat. While I’ve never used this title before, the first poems I wrote in grad school that felt like I was really surprising myself were aubades. I wanted to see what my new losses would say about my old losses and how much of a pattern I might be living (and loving and losing). The ending also borrows itself from an earlier aubade. I don’t see it as a sequel, per se, but it reminds me of what Jane Hirshfield said about how revision is no arbitrary tinkering but a honing of the self at the deepest level. It’s also what Inigo Montoya says when he loses faith in The Princess Bride: “You told me to go back to the beginning. And so I have.”

Traci Brimhall is the author of four collections of poetry: Come the Slumberless to the Land of NodSaudadeOur Lady of the Ruins, selected by Carolyn Forché for the 2011 Barnard Women Poets Prize; and Rookery, selected by Michelle Boisseau for the 2009 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award and finalist for the ForeWord Book of the Year Award.