Better to Marry Than to Burn

Home, then, where the past was.
Then, where cold pastorals repeated
their entreaties, where a portrait of Christ
hung in every bedroom. Then was a different
country in a different climate in a time when
souls were won and lost in prairie tents. It was.
It was. Then it was a dream. I had no will there.
Then the new continent and the new wife
and the new language for no, for unsaved,
for communion on credit. Then the daughter
who should’ve been mine, and the hour a shadow
outgrew its body. She was all of my failures,
my sermon on the tender comforts of hatred
in the shape of a girl. Then the knowledge
of God like an apple in the mouth. I faced
my temptation. I touched its breasts with
as much restraint as my need allowed,
and I woke with its left hand traced again
and again on my chest like a cave wall
disfigured by right-handed gods who tried
to escape the stone. It was holy. It was fading.
My ring, then, on my finger like an ambush,
as alive as fire. Then the trees offered me a city
in the shape of a word followed by a word
followed by a blue madonna swinging from
the branches. A choir filed out of the jungle
singing hallelujah like a victory march and it was.

More Poems by Traci Brimhall