The Death of the Last Encantado

Traci Brimhall

Once the river had its fill of miracles, he washed up

on shore and could no longer become a man.

He clicked and lifted his fluke but it wouldn’t split

into legs. A ribereña recognized him by his sadness

and the scars on his back, his nearly visible history.

She touched the dolphin she’d made love to as a man

when she was sixteen, shy, and full of disquiet. Years ago

he'd knocked on her door selling novel wonders — lockets,

apples, French kisses. At her insistence, he pulled her dress

to her hips and used his tongue to write untranslatable

Sapphic gospels between her thighs. Where do you think

you’re going? she asked. To what home? Toward which love?

But his untransformed body didn’t respond. She walked

the streets wailing and striking her calves with a bullwhip,

announcing the death of the last encantado. As the clouds

ripened, we went weeping to collect him, remembering

the slow millennium of post-coital untwining, the water

from his hair baptizing our necks and navels and knees.

The howler monkeys joined in with their ministry

of pleasure and anger and fruit. The forest was alive

with it, the story of the love we’d made. We placed him

in a canoe with his hat and our kisses, imported apples

and lianas, rosaries and fishhooks. His love was

as impersonal as it was perfect, and now it is the tide.

His body rocked toward a future we could not see.

The hollow he left in the riverbank swelled with rain.

about the author