in this one room shanty without windows
only one good sack of millet for hunger
and no matches I have risen from the bed
which is only a stolen sheet cast over straw
to cook you breakfast. I want to be good
for you. but what do I know of striking flint
or bringing anything to flames.
once my aunt tried to teach me
said lean in whisper your sins to smoke
said you could be forgiven by fire.
but momma lifted her nose at low labor
and I never learned how to burn my secrets.
we are not speaking now. momma and I.
she has her feelings about this dirt floor shanty
with no books and that flea hop bed
where you named me woman.
I know I won’t be young forever but want forever
and I have seen how breast can fall in my family
but if I could cook you this millet
watch you eat and smile… damn it.
this flint won’t spark. you startle awake
to me beating the dark rocks together
your eyes already keening
for something I don’t yet know to call hunger.
I say teach me to light a fire
you say woman come back to bed.
Brionne Janae is a California native, teaching artist, and poet who has left Boston where she completed an MFA at Emerson College, and is headed to Brooklyn. A recipient of the 2016 St. Botoloph Emering Artist award, Brionne is also a proud Cave Canem Fellow. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, jubilat, Sixth Finch, Plume, Bayou Magazine, The Nashville Review, and Waxwing, among others. Brionne’s first manuscript, After Jubilee, will be published by BOAAT Press in winter 2017.