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Prelude to a Revolution

Jul. 24, 2011
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We go to prison windows and pass cigarettes, tangerines
and iodine through the bars. Anything we think

could heal a man. Assassins kiss our fingers.
Mercenaries sing us songs about unbroken light

as we mend their shirts. The bilingual murderers recite
lamentations in one tongue, and in another, young myths.

We fold and unfold our shawls, and the men squint
into the sunlight, dumb with hope. Some days they confuse

the walls of their cage with their skin. Some days,
the sky. They see their deaths in the sweat darkening

our dresses. To sweeten the hours we share scandals
from the city, how curators removed an elephant’s heart

from the museum because it began beating when anyone
in love looked at it, how the coroner found minnows

swimming in a drowned girl’s lungs. They ask if it’s true,
if slaves are chained together on ships to prevent suicide.

We say they’ll never be free. They warn us one night soon
the judge will wake to find his bed alive with wasps,

while across town the night watchman will stare stunned
at the moths circling before he realizes he’s on fire.

Traci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins (forthcoming from W.W. Norton), winner of 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, Virginia Quarterly Review, New England Review, and elsewhere.  She was the 2008-09 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and currently teaches at Western Michigan University, where she is a doctoral associate and King/Chvez/Parks Fellow.  “Prelude to a Revolution” was previously published in Virginia Quarterly Review.


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