Appalachian Aubade

We follow white blazes and sing to forget the hours,
the days, the weeks like rocks in our stomachs.

You bring me water from a spring, unstrap
my pack. Show me where it hurts, you say,

but I won’t let you touch me. My fingers throb
with thaw, and I show you three constellations—

an unrivaled beauty, a hunter, and a mother bear
with three cubs trundling towards the north star.

You set fire to our maps and give your faith
to the voyaging starlight. Night arrives with clouds,

so I close my eyes to see what is burning.
We find paw prints and rush down the mountain,

but we are still afraid, so we make love
in a Confederate graveyard, my back scratched

by frost and brown leaves. We are quiet, even though
there are no birds and no moon to hear us.

Because we’re lost. Because pleasure is stronger
than fear, and I am afraid of everything.

Because you are fluent in the gray language of winter.
Because we must admit we’re wrong—we can’t find

our way by the stars. And we can’t remember what
we came here searching for, but we found our names

on separate trees. We found a dead cub in the snow,
something so innocent it could not be saved.

Traci Brimhall has received the Halls Poetry Fellowship from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers' Conference. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, FIELD, The Southern Review and The Missouri Review. (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761