Traci Brimhall

“Autopoiesis,” Leanne Dunic

Long-Distance Love Poem as Alt-Text

[A middle-aged woman in an unmade bed poses for her phone’s camera. She takes off her compression gloves and tries again, pushing the interdisciplinary erotica of star atlas and physical therapy brochures out of the way. She studies the photo’s fortunate failure to translate pain, how it reveals only a desire machine, a simpler creature with flexible wrists and hips. In a lifetime of sleeps, they will each spend six years in REM cycles. Her lover says he dreams of her body, whole subconscious years of pleasure he has alone with the thought of her. Miles apart, his eyes caress the backs of his eyelids, again, again, ever hungry. The faltering wing of each breath rushes her awake, her body bent as a saint in the burning darkness of the bed.]


My Lover’s Eyes Are Exactly Like the Sun

Which is to say ruinous and hot. His lips—
wet as a rose with waiting. Our desire sharp

as a grapefruit’s pink, but also soft as garlic
beneath its paper. I want his mouth like

I want strawberries in fresh cream. Our kiss
is hungry but also tigered. Deliberate. It isn’t

as wild as Kansas weather but strokes slow
like winter sunsets. It isn’t weekday panties

with loosening elastic. It is Valentine’s lace
but more patient. It is sudden as conversion,

worthy of radiant trespass. It’s pressed
against a fence, but also a garden shaking

with spring—bloodroot, bluebell, his body,
my body, oh God, heaven in present tense.


Traci Brimhall is is the author of four collections of poetry: Come the Slumberless from the Land of Nod (Copper Canyon Press), Saudade (Copper Canyon Press), Our Lady of the Ruins (W.W. Norton), and Rookery (Southern Illinois University Press). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Slate, The Believer, The New Republic, Orion, New York Times Magazine, and Best American Poetry. She’s received a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and is currently the Poet Laureate of Kansas.

On Pleasure: “One of my favorite sources of tension in a love poem is including what should not be there: bad breath, errant body hair, someone’s socks still on, and even the admission of pleasure’s difficulty when living with chronic pain. No one’s life is simple, and I believe no one’s pleasure is either. It’s as complex as our unique bodies and subjectivities.”