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About this poet

Traci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins (W. W. Norton, 2012). She teaches at Kansas State University and lives in Manhattan, Kansas.

What They Found In the Diving Bell

Traci Brimhall
The first time I saw my mother, she'd been dead 
fourteen years and came as a ghost in the mirror, 

plucking the hair beneath her arms, and humming 
a bossa nova. She lotioned her chapped heels 

and padded her bra as if she were alive in the old way. 
She said I was born with my cord wrapped 

around my neck like a rosary, and she knew God, 
the doomed father of her days, wanted us both. 

Before midnight she plaited my hair, hemmed my skirt, 
sang lullabies she'd learned on the other side of the flood. 

She lifted her dress to show her bones shedding light 
on a stillborn fetus accidentally raptured into her ribs. 

She said she'd choose her death again, obey any pain 
heaven gave her. Years ago she watched a man ride 

a diving bell to the bottom of the Amazon to face 
the mysteries God had placed there. The chain broke, 

and they pulled him to the surface smiling, stiff, refusing 
to open his fists. They broke and unpeeled his fingers. 

No one wept or fought to hold it. She covered her eyes 
so she wouldn't see what God, in his innocence, had done.

Copyright © 2012 by Traci Brimhall. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2012 by Traci Brimhall. Used with permission of the author.

Traci Brimhall

Traci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins (W. W. Norton, 2012). She teaches at Kansas State University and lives in Manhattan, Kansas.

by this poet

poem

Posters for the missing kapok tree appear on streetlights
offering a reward for its safe return. I hate to spoil it,

but the end of every biography is death. The end of a city
in the rainforest is a legend and a lost expedition. The end

of mythology is forgetfulness, placing gifts in the hole

poem

Before she died, my mother told me
I’d make the monster that would kill me,
so I knew this was someone else’s death
creeping into my field, butchering my cow.
I recognized its lone eye and two mouths.
Perhaps it mistook the lowing for the call
of its own kind. I didn’t mind the heifer

poem
We crawl through the tall grass and idle light,

our chests against the earth so we can hear the river


underground. Our backs carry rotting wood and books

that hold no stories of damnation or miracles.


One day as we listen for water, we find a beekeeper—

one eye pearled by a cataract, the other cut out by