Sarah Browning


        February 1, 2003

Too fine a line of
cloud to stand in
for the dust
above Manhattan,
the smudge of gas
over Auschwitz,
the mushroom
in all our
waking nightmares.
But still we remember.

I look for clouds
that can hold me
when I turn
from my magazine
and glance distracted
out the airplane window.
Such round comfort.
Like the down
on my sonís neck
I stare at,
for once--
how brief--

Both times
weíve played
this board game
Iíve given him hints
and forgotten
to move my piece
until--at last --
a tie. He is almost
five. I donít know
how to teach
about not winning.


Sitting propped
against the storefront,
I try yelling it
at the people staring
their clenched stares.
The pavement is cold
against my ass, the child
so hard asleep against me
I can yell and not wake him.
One woman smiles. Another
just keeps looking,
forgetting to smoke.
Most look--quick--
and look away. I watch
all of them passing. I am
tempted--I could just
turn my palm to the sky,
hold out my empty hand
to everyone I see.


    from The Smart Girl Poems

Iíd heard Cat Stevens singing
so I was ready to believe
a man lived who was looking
for a hard-headed woman.
But the smart boy editors
on the student newspaper
in 1979 were looking instead for
Candy Chatham, who
climbed into their laps
in the fluorescent night
of the student center lounge.
I tried turning away
with a look I hoped was
hard headed, finished typing
my story on the new exhibit
of lithographs in the school library.
My coeditor Charlie shrugged.
What could he do, Candy perched
and vivacious in his uncertain lap?
Cat Stevens got religion.
I got the ache of his voice turning
scratchy on the turntable
late into the dorm room night. 

Sarah Browningís first book of poems, Whiskey in the Garden of Eden, is forthcoming in 2007 from The Word Works. She is coeditor of D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology and coordinates the group of the same name. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Shenandoah, The Seattle Review, and Sycamore Review. She is currently organizing Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, to be held in Washington , D.C. in March 2008.



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