Kristene Kaye Brown



I tried to sleep, but the sun
in my spine rose again.
I will find what I need, by accident

or conviction.
Come night, all the small gods
will look like pinheads in the sky.

What do they know of this heat?

It’s been forever since I’ve talked
to you.
What can I say of hope?

The  same air that keeps
can carry. Hours unfold. And still,
I am here, listening.

Fingers laced with morning,
morning laced with Spring.
I have knuckled       
            my hands into a steeple.

Did you know
all the churches are burning?
Did you know
fire is just as capable

of doing the work of the dirt.
It’s called efficiency
The body wants relief.
                        The mind follows.

This is how it works.
If we are lucky
we will die in our sleep, leaving
everything undone,

but not today.
Today, I am measuring my faith
in degrees, while outside,
the birds hang onto their thin

telephone wire,
testing their chorus of notes.
They have plenty to say.

I’m sorry.
By now, you must be tired
of me, tired of my small stuttering          

prayer, as I am tired
of this flame. Fair enough.
Let the birds tuck their beaks

back beneath their wings.
            There is no song for this.
Unclasp the hands. A fever

is a fever
and being burned is nothing
            like being saved.





I wrote this poem while undergoing cancer treatment. Chemo-sick and exhausted from radiation, all I wanted was to sleep. The birds had other plans. I found myself in this strange sort of limbo—happy to be alive listening to the birds sing, yet wishing they’d just shut the fuck up so I could go back to sleep. I didn’t get any sleep, but I did get a poem.