Like the Stars, Broken and Hungry

Those late evenings when the couch was mine

I clung to my righteousness

            a book      a pillow      the inadequate throw

and all I did not say, as I pulled the string

            unraveled the sweater of us

                             the scarf of us

            Sounds our mouths did not make         

I would wake at 4 am and climb in bed

            press against you a few short hours

Forgive me I ask in poems but no longer of you

*

Some days I hear the many years of our tenderness

over the phone and other days your rage –

so that hanging up the phone today

my body lurches with its familiar longing just as

yesterday it recoiled.

I still don’t know what makes you

mean sometimes nor why I allowed it

all those years. The world has gone

an impossible vivid green

in the middle of its spring. It means what it always

fucking means.

*

Like cold beer for a hangover

I have sex with the first man who asks –

and for a while, it works, astringent

jolt back into my body,

reverie of the new man’s tongue

his fingers pushed inside me.

Is the answer to excess, then, more excess?

I wake in the strange hotel room,

the man gone, the city’s rooftops

glittering below me, and see now,

understand, how close I’d been to the edge.

*

I am not a donor, not the Talent,

hapless and cruel. I am nothing

like a doorknob to be turned,

a harangue, a piece of pie, glistening

beneath its plastic wrap. I am not

the shame of eating it all, the pleasure,

the stick of peach and sweetness

and cornstarch. I am not the mild starch

you prefer in your laundered shirts.

I am not your shirt, buttons flying off.

I am nothing like the stars, invisible

in the city, broken and hungry.

Not hungry, have never been hungry,

never hated the moon and its excess

of joy, pure symbol of hard and

heated hate. I am not the blackberry

bramble, circling hawk, breathless prey.

This is not about our marriage ending.

Our end will always be coming, will

always be ending. We are ending.

We ended long ago. This is not that poem.


Sarah Browning is the author of Killing Summer and Whiskey in the Garden of Eden. She is co-founder and for 10 years was Executive Director of Split This Rock. She is the recipient of the 2019 Lillian E. Smith Writer-in-Service Award and fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, Yaddo, Mesa Refuge, VCCA, and the Adirondack Center for Writing. She is currently pursuing an MFA at Rutgers University Camden. More at: www.sarahbrowning.net