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
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