2013: Traci Brimhall, “Good Luck with the Double Cross, or Advice to Myself at 22”

Your first love will not be your last. The heart recovers.
The relief, bitter. The pain a consolation prize for the forever

you did not win from the mouth of the one you wanted.
The hitchhiker you pick up on that overcast road in the Yukon

is sadder than you are and his road is longer. Stop hoping
to see a grizzly bear. They’re terrifying and might pull you

from your tent for the blueberry stains on your shirt. It’s true—
the longer you study literature, the harder it is to enjoy some

books, but your capacity for awe is greater. Some pleasures
never fade—a good kiss, sleeping in, moonlight on water.

Accept your good luck and try to feel worthy of it. Try as you
might, echolocation and telegraphs will not help you find the one

who got away, though Google will, but not until it’s too late.
Sing when you’re lost. It won’t help you find your way, but it will

prove to your fear that you’re still alive. There’s no double-cross
like a friend’s and no love like a pet’s, but neither will be

by your hospital bed at 3AM. When your body teaches you
you’re no longer young, accept the Vicodin and lost afternoons.

When you reach thirty, you’ll realize you’ve already forgotten
what you never forgave. You’ll start to wonder, start to wander,

look for an answer in your lover’s mouth, look on mountain tops,
look in equatorial temples before you find it, waiting, in a book.

Commissioned by the Eta Chapter of Ohio, Phi Beta Kappa, 2013

About Traci Brimhall

Traci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins (W.W. Norton, 2012), selected by Carolyn Forché for 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 and finalist for the ForeWord Book of the Year Award.

Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The New Yorker, New England Review, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate, The Missouri Review, Kenyon Review, and FIELD. Her work has also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Best of the Net, PBS Newshour, and Best American Poetry 2013. Her poetry comic collaborations with Eryn Cruft can be found in Guernica, Ninth Letter, TheThe Poetry Comics, and Nashville Review. She and the poet Brynn Saito are co-authors of a collaborative chapbook, Bright Power, Dark Peace (Diode Editions, 2013).

She’s received a 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Poetry, the 2012 Summer Poet in Residence at the University of Mississippi, and the 2008-2009 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellowship at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. Other awards for her work include scholarships and fellowships to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, The Writer’s Center of Bethesda, Vermont Studio Center, the Disquiet International Literary Program, and the Arctic Circle Residency.

She holds degrees from Florida State University (BA) and Sarah Lawrence College (MFA). Currently, she teaches creative writing at Western Michigan University where she is a doctoral candidate and a King/Chávez/Parks Fellow. She also serves as Editor in Chief for Third Coast.

(From Traci Brimhall’s web site)