She told me her brain was a barn on fire,

horses hammering at the stalls, beams ablaze

and buckling, sparks taking their hot bodies

outward and upward on air drafts, or worse,

her brain a cathedral burning, it was Notre Dame

while Paris gasped, medieval joinery unjoined

in a furnace that melted iron, out of control,

smoke in her lungs, an auto da fe of mind.

What I could tell her was: nothing. That

everything dies? That the fire is beautiful?

Or, here is a river, immerse yourself? No—I held

her feverish body next to mine and let her burn.

Ann E. Michael lives in Emmaus, where for many years she ran the writing center at DeSales University. Her most recent book is The Red Queen Hypothesis; she’s the author of Water-Rites (2012) and six chapbooks. Her next collection, Abundance/Diminishment, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books in the spring of 2024. She maintains a long-running blog at www.annemichael.blog.