"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 Nod; Saudade; Our 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.