Weekly Poem: ‘Fiat Lux’

BY Tom LeGro  October 10, 2011 at 2:37 PM EDT

By Traci Brimhall

My sister asks what ate the bird’s eyes
    as she cradles the dead chickadee she found
        on the porch. Ants, I say, knowing the soft ocular

cells are the easiest way into the red feast of heart,
    liver, kidney. I tell her that when they ate the bird
        they saw the blue bowled sky, the patchwork

of soybean fields and sunflowers, a bear loping
    across a gravel road. Already, they are bringing
        back to their tunnels the slow chapters of spring—

a slough drying to become a meadow and the bruised
    smell of sex inside flowers. They start to itch
        for a mate’s black-feathered cheeks and music.

As she cushions the eggs, their queen dreams
    of young chickadees stretching their necks and crying
        for their mother to protect them until they learn to see.

Sister, it is like this—the visions begin to waver,
    and the colony goes mad, fearful they’ll never see
        another dahlia tell its purple rumor, or see a river commit

itself to the ocean. As the last memory leaves them,
    they twitch in their sleep, trying to make out the distant
        boatman lifting his lantern, his face disfigured by light.

 
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, 2010), winner of the 2009 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. She teaches creative writing at Western Michigan University, where she is a doctoral candidate. She also serves as poetry editor for Third Coast and editor at large for Loaded Bicycle.