you are in the diode archives spring 2010



The Temple

The spires are lit by a low flame. Behind you,
a chorus of lamentations in the dark. 
Approach the temple’s wide gate and begin

praying to the living. Be with the mystery
that cloaked itself in images.
The teeth missing from the saint’s skull

are collected on a string.  Wear them close
to your thin body.  When last were you beckoned
to the wilderness for a terror to behold

and resist? You could have been anything,
but you have been chosen to walk through the gate
as the world’s only daughter, aglow with solitude

and held up by a lean hope.  Remove from your body
the desire for a useful love, and the plague 
of angels will no longer haunt you. Only a fool 

can tell the king the truth, and you lie to survive,
like everything mysterious.  When your right hand
rises to the center of your chest to join the left

you find you have forgotten to kneel.
How can you hope to hear the howling that is God
when nothing around you is on fire?


The Prison

This cell once held the slave 
who told the king he was mortal.
This one protected the people
from the man who murdered

his six sons.  Someone
is singing.  No one is here. 
The stone is darkly stained,
but no matter to you. You still enter

the windowless room where 
the inquisitor broke a suspect’s fingers. 
Because they were your fingers. 
Because that’s where you confessed

that you were no better
than the torturer. Nothing will save you
from the prison of memory. 
Can you see the broken light,

striking twin perihelia?
The world is cold now; stay behind 
these stones. After all,
a woman’s freedom is different

from a man’s and more wild. 
I’ve seen you roam the forest,
your mouth glistening.  What power
burns beneath your silence?  To keep

yourself safe, dig every body
out of the dungeon. Ready yourself 
for the thousand wanting bones
in the walls. Resurrection

is an old art, and the most savage
of all possible joys.


The Museum

After the great destruction, looters came with their loose eyes 
           and desire for oil and marble.

They wanted beauty in her old disguises, like statues of
           ancient cities before

they were taken by marauders.  The fractured hands before you
           belong to the conquered gods.

The tapestry in the hall tells an old legend, the tale of the woman  
           warrior with her twisted dagger,

and the many arrows in her quiver that warmed themselves in
           the bodies of her enemies.

Here lies her spear and shards of the hunted.  When you roam
           the dark corridors bring her weapons

made from molten and steel, for once men stole their brides
           mistaking possession for love. 

Hide your body in her armor. Hide your heart in an empty grave. 
           When you leave here, take nothing.



Water drowns your panic like a Sunday blessing.
It’s spring.  The sky above you darkens with rain.

You think passion is your only gift, but a sadness
older than the sea keeps time in your blood. 

Once you saw two skeletons locked in a kiss.
Time has forgotten them. Time forgets

everything except the swan’s neck reflected
in the dark fountain and the way it cried out

its silver anthem of loneliness. Do not drink
from here. The water looks cold and clean

but clarity like that only leads to madness. 
Remember when you came here with the one

who held your body even as it changed
beneath his hands and waited for you to

renounce the world?  You will never renounce it.  


Traci Brimhall is a former Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. Her poems have appeared in New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Missouri Review, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Her manuscript Rookery won the 2009 Crab Orchard Series First Book Award and is forthcoming from Southern Illinois University Press.

Brynn Saito’s poetry has been anthologized in Helen Vendler’s Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology, 3rd ed., and From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas 1900-2002, edited by Ishmael Reed. Her work has also appeared in Pleiades, Harpur Palate, and Copper Nickel. In 2008, she was awarded a Kundiman Asian American Poetry Fellowship at the University of Virginia.