Birdchest or a Hunger Grown, A Custom by Brian Francis


Aunt Chris asked to be buried with a poem
promising reunion. Others grow tired of waiting,

take new lovers, build blanket forts,
basement and attic temples: crawl spaces

Wishing ourselves transfigured,
we carve our names into bark.

Another embroidered plea for permanence.
Don’t believe in goodbye. Leave the room

to be redeemed, missing the view of the city
from bedroom windows. Stunned by how the sky opens

in its ritual of wanting. A new body beside you
says there’s a rooftop in Brooklyn,

pillows whisper west coast, calling you
out of your name. You got lost

in the vibration. Remember to keep eyes soft
welcoming daylight. The city’s rust-lung

laughter must make it real. Humming your favorite
part as the song begged, keep your nose clean

the voice cracks. These walls learned albums.
We wrote unconcerned with interpretation

the ballad of a bullet gone astray in broad day.
Nights we mistook warning shots and warfare.

The fiery lit tips during the storm, mourning what
hadn’t left. Tell me, if you could be held

like a phantom limb leaves steady descent
through shakes, would you stop back around?

Not quite like memory, fractured, all faith.
Just let it satiate this gentle ache, this hunger.

When there needs to be a lie, tell me
when I will see you next. Until then

keep the beat with your weapon
against your glass. I will mouth the words.

My father did not care to hide his shakes, watching
Aunt Chris lowered into a summer soft strip of earth.

My mother’s hand holds his, their tremors match.
My hands empty, still with no answer

whether the poem is folded in a pocket
close to her heart or hands or what

requests are never granted. No answers for who left
a bouquet of digits singing, be sure, bring something worthy with you.




Brian Francis is a Cave Canem fellow from New York City. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Creative Nonfiction and has an MFA in Poetry from NYU.