Leatha Kendrick


Author of three volumes of poetry, Leatha Kendrick leads workshops in poetry and life writing at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, a community literary center in Lexington, Kentucky. Poems are recent or forthcoming in Southern Women’s Review, Passager, and Peregrine. Her fiction, poetry and essays appear widely in journals and anthologies. Two of her books of poetry, Science in Your Own Back Yard and Second Opinion, are indexed in NYU’s Literature, Arts, and Medicine database.


Sleep in Summer

The opened windows pale pillars of air,
sheets of sound ushered night through a fine mesh,

thin gauze of metal between us and all that moved,
sang for its life in the dark.    Locust, cricket, nightjar—

calls and warnings flung out and answered,
echoes to carry us past knowing to enter our bones

each night and thrum there yes, yes—you, too,
we know.
In her bed my sister shifted underneath

the chatter. Every answered and unanswerable
thing wove us together and the same questions

kept us apart    cocooned in what we could not tell,
didn’t even know to tell. Owls and katydids

entered the colloquy pond frogs preached
their rumbly songs.    Downstairs, our parents moved

through a different night toward a morning
we knew nothing of, and our brothers rolled

and sighed in day beds against the TV room walls,
the sunburst clock glinting faint gold right below us.

We sailed in the black black branches of the old
cherry tree they slept at its base where bridal wreath

branches crowded and windows reached to the worn
wood floor. At last it was all breath—our damp

lungs expanding like clouds, our dreams’ questions
threaded through songless grubs the hush of grass.

‘Sleep in Summer’ is one of those poems that took a long time to find its form. Though I pretty quickly settled on couplets, the poem needed opening up (and thinning out), and these came bit by bit. At first the poem was all image—the fine screen wire in our farm house’s tall windows—and feel and the sounds on those summer nights of sleeping with only that merest mesh between us and the world outside. The mystery of that world and how its singing penetrated the indoors and echoed the completely natural obscurity of even the most familiar and familial objects and people around the child is where the poem went—content to just be in that mystery, a part of it.