Sarah Browning is co-founder and Executive Director of Split This Rock: Poetry of Provocation & Witness and an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Author of Whiskey in the Garden of Eden and Killing Summer (forthcoming, 2017) and co-editor of D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology, she is the recipient of artist fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, a Creative Communities Initiative grant, and the People Before Profits Poetry Prize. She has been guest editor or co-edited special issues of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Delaware Poetry Review, and POETRY magazine. Browning co-hosts the Sunday Kind of Love poetry series at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC, now in its eleventh year. Photo credit: Nikki Brugnoli
we had said yes more often,
that we’d angled toward the sun.
Suppose our hearts had been teeth,
gnawing each other to reach
the sweet fruit shielded by our
hard, hard rinds. Suppose, thus,
we’d split each other open,
the other’s sticky, tacky, ripe-
sweet juice decorating our chins.
Suppose that were the heart’s work,
to destroy for pleasure, to remember
excess and be pleased, to rip into
flesh, to gnash with joy. Suppose
we’d lent ourselves to such tricks,
taken up the challenge of the unripe
fruit. Who knows where the pith
and peel would lie now, seeds
spit into corners, gathering dust?
In my new life, I am softening
in the light. Perhaps you are too.
The Blue Devil
pppppppDome of the Baptistry, Florence
Imagine the scaffolding 100 feet
closer to God, craftsmen placing
the tiny tesserae in five shades
of blue for the horns, for the ears,
adding brown and a touch
of yellow for the serpenty heads
thrusting from each ear, then
a ghostly kind of white:
sorrowing human bodies
caught in the serpents’ mouths.
To the glory of God, to His glory,
this Satan – ravenous setting
of blue square upon blue square,
lifetime upon lifetime. Next the belly
with its concentric whorls, the arms
muscular, strong enough to hold
two more of the tortured
in his curling fingers. Help me
oh Lord, thinks the grandson
watching his father and his grandfather
working side by side 100 feet
in the air. Make me worthy
of thy Last Judgment.
In your darkness
you could not locate me, though I believed I was
ppppppsinging my coordinates to you each day, each night.
In the compound of our love, I wandered
ppppppdown corridors and through empty living
rooms, past sun porches and across dark terraces,
ppppppuntil, one dusky afternoon, I stumbled on a storeroom filled
with gin, cases of warm whiskey, beer in kegs and bottles and cans.
And there I lingered, drowned the singing, clasped my own
pppppbell’s tongue and silenced it at last.
I am sorry, love. Forgive me.
ppppppWhiskey makes a poor
companion, but a companion,