“A Camera Crew Films a Telenovela Based on the Miracles at Puraquequara”

A new poem

by Traci Brimhall
We rehearse our lines to each other as we palm mangoes to test
their tenderness and say, Não, comandante, and More rum, cadela.

Day in, day out, we eat the same fried bread and ripe plantains,
wash the same sheets, keep saving the saved, the baptized rising

from the river, awed and dripping, living their scripts. Though
our memories of the execution differ we stand on our marks

and clap. We try to recall our exact order in the funeral parade.
Extras in our own story and envious of the ingenue’s unmuddied shoes

and air-conditioned hotel room, we say, ajudar, ajudar, and cry on cue.
Between scenes an actor shares imported cigars with the prostitute

playing the missionary’s wife, and when cameras roll, he bites
her nipples with his prosthetic teeth. After the mayor hangs himself

and bequeaths his second-best bed to his horse, we write romantic
obituaries for his widow and send her signed photographs of ourselves.

We make love to avoid sweeping the sidewalk, to practice geometry,
to satisfy the voyeur and come with uncertain pleasure. Only when

the film crew leaves do the dead reappear, drinking, dancing, whipping
each other with TV antennas. They burn with more heat than light.

Pictures from that night reveal a black horse dragging a priest
through paradise, the crowd weeping, at last, with happiness.

Traci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins (W.W. Norton), winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Rookery (Southern Illinois University Press). She also received a 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship.

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March/April 2014
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