Sarah Browning



Some days, now, I think I feel your head
screwing yourself into place
like a human cannon ball
tamping herself down
for the explosive ride.

If only my pelvis were hard
and well angled like the cannon.
If there were a circus manager
to light the fuse, to blast you out
high above the gaping crowd,
a satisfying boom between my legs,
a net to catch you.
You smile and wave
at the crowd's approval.
It is done.
The elephant parade is next.



The spring I could not walk
my husband parked me ten long steps
from an apple tree, the baby sleeping
oblivious to what he had cost me.

I climbed from the car
and stumbled my way across
the scrabby lawn to stand
under the fullness, the bees.
I had to find a branch to hold
so I could live in that white
and test it with the pain
that had taken over my body.

I have feared so much pleasure--
a face full of lilacs, something
as petty as an apple tree.

I had watched the spring
from my chair by the glass door--
watched and wanted and now,
this tree, indifferent, white
like a promise, mistake, a walker--
what the spring knows.

Ellyn Weiss
Prepare to Be Surprised, 2003
Acrylic and oilbar on canvas, 48" x 48"
see more work by Ellyn Weiss



Was there whiskey in the garden--

heat to cool
the blood that calls
to the blue wing at the edge of the sky?

There is that apple.
They don't say
how long Eve dreamed
of reaching--

her belly taut with the tang of it--

before she took.



My friend was a 10
when she met him
then added a size
each year he beat her

A 20 now--
small enough
to slip away



At night to put me to sleep
he sang protest songs
he learned on the demonstration lines
We shall not, we shall not be moved
the lights out, quiet in the house
Just like a tree I am four
maybe five standing by the water
I knew the righteousness
the walking testifying singing
that sat down with him
on the edge of my single bed
we shall not be moved

His rage And before I'll be a slave
the marching the singing
I'll be buried in my grave
was never enough
I was too small
the rage, what walked
in the door with him
and go home
like a blindness, a fire
that rose from his foot
that stepped on a misplaced toy
to my Lord
like the fire hoses, blinding me
I am four, maybe five
and be free



In this one you are
on my back
legs wrapped round my waist
feet and knees flapping forward
Katie's there too
we're a mob of sisters
laughter and cut offs
perched on the edge of the lawn
Chicago roaring out before us
in 1974

We screamed and
gave each other five for hours
that summer
Nixon quit



Sarah Browning is coeditor of D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology (Argonne House Press, 2003), and coordinates the group of the same name. She has had poems widely published in journals such as The New York Quarterly, The Literary Review, and Eclipse. She received the Quadrangle Poetry Award in 2001 and took third place in the Larry Neal Awards for Poetry in 2003. She was founding director of Amherst Writers & Artists Institute, and organization providing creative writing workshops to low-income women and youth, and now works raising money for women playwrights and filmmakers at The Fund for Women Artists.

Published in Volume 5, Number 3, Summer 2004.


Read more by this author:
Sarah Browning: The Whitman Issue
Sarah Browning's Intro to The Wartime Issue: Vol. 7, No. 2, Spring 2006
Sarah Browning: DC Places Issue
Sarah Browning: Split This Rock Issue

Sarah Browning: Museum Issue
Sarah Browning: Tenth Anniversary Issue
Sarah Browning on DC Poets Against the War: Literary Organizations Issue
Sarah Browning: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue
Sarah Browning: Floricanto Issue
Sarah Browning on Lucille Clifton: Poetic Ancestors Issue