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Come Trembling


In the country where believers eat the bodies
of the gods, we meet a priest who pulls a rope
of thorns through his tongue to make his mind

pure enough for a vision. He dances to music
we can't hear and waits to come trembling
into knowledge. We don't recognize ourselves

in his radiance, but we do in his suffering.
He passes through pain and into healing
without seeing the holy rendered visible.

He tells us the oracle died when she refused
to divine the future, but we find her tangled
in her own hair wearing a garland of burrs,

manacled to the bed. We ask for a better world
to die in, but she says, Submit to your freedom.
We tie new knots in her hair and swim

into the belly of a shark to retrieve the book
of signs. Rumors say the secret of life is sewn
into a dead man's coat, but when we unearth him,

all we find in his sleeves are his fractured arms.
We want to believe, to split open the myth
and lie in it, return to original dark and be changed,

but the bones won't yield to us, pages are missing
from the book, the gods remain so quiet
we hear water speaking between the stones.


Traci Brimhall

Our Lady of the Ruins
W. W. Norton


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