Four Poems by Sarah Browning

Our thing

is food – we talk of dinner –
zucchini with a little bite
bites of little chocolates for indulgence
to indulge in things takes money
money takes work and a lot of our friends
are friends our age we’re tired of work
though work makes dinner possible
and possibly chocolate though lentils
are cheap and so is rice, root vegetables roasted
in the roasting pans given to us as gifts
which are things given in love
and love is free though living isn’t
is it not life that warms me this January

a January hot and cold my honey still in bed –
we’ve joined our things in chorus –
bed a thing that holds us
as we hold each other, cradled, in our stone house
our house in a neighborhood of even bigger
stone houses in a city of bridges
and other less neighborly divides
in a country with borders drawn by imperium
an empire now everywhere designed
as designations go, its people now things
arranged for the sorting of things,
for the acquiring of things, things
that feed us, things we play with,
things we wear, drive
driven to take
it’s our thing our American thing



pain the temporary lover
pain the bad boss
pain the mercurial father
absent lord
the withholding mother
pain the bully
mean girl
pain the jock
the brain
pain as 19th century novel
pain as surrealism
pain as neofuturism
signified and signifier
pain as French feminist
pain as absurdist
Monty Python sketch
pain as centrist pundit
as late-night host
pain as Judge Judy
pain as Jane Goodall
pain as Born Free
pain as Bob fucking Dylan
pain as chains in the sea
pain as sea glass
this American pain
this English pain
war-refugee pain
Great Depression pain
political pain
personal pain
pain as tragic early death
pain as rock star treatment
self-help book
facebook status pain
tweet fest pain
you may ask yourself pain
the king of pain my shepherd is
good morning, pain
thought we said goodbye last night


Quarantine, Final Days
          Early June, 2020

Yesterday you planted clover, love, and paced each foot
of the property with a hose careful and tending.
This morning we are lush with the dew.

Another sneering white man has brought his power
down vicious on another Black man in America and though
we’ve no TV here we witness

the brave marching, we listen to the chants, on our tiny
phone screens. We join our sorrow and our rage. Here
in the high mountains, spring is late

waking and the world has gone green – so impossibly
bursting beauty. The tear gas is nowhere near.

My privilege pounding in me, you tend me each day, arms
about me as I heave at the horror. Good morning, my sweet.
We came for a week and stayed

three months, as those who can have fled plague cities
for centuries. I try to listen for each bird’s morning song
to carry back with us to the uncertain city

of whirring choppers, wailing sirens. The wren trills a rising.


DrBigBeef, or Internet Dating Over 50

1. OkCupid

When I tell my 16-year-old son – inappropriately perhaps –
this user name I’d spied on OkCupid he asks, quite sensibly:
Is that just dick-related or is he also a butcher?

DrBigBeef      Lotsajunk4hottie

Gr8luvr2, which means, inexplicably,
that Gr8luvr was already taken.

Stormin2u      Reallygdlickin – I’ll be the judge of that

Gigglecomplex      TangosWithWolves      MeetGaryinaBox

Muthead, with just one T      PipeFitterforPussy

CoolInaCrisis sports a combover, early 60s glasses.
So… the Cuban Missile Crisis?


Every last man on Match is just as comfortable
in a tux or jeans, out on the town or curled
on the couch with his sweetie or Special Lady.

Each one is Down to Earth. They pose over
and over with a recent catch, as if to say
Check out my enormous… fish.

Note to men on Match: do you all have to be so
fucking dull? Another thing: your relationship
with your Lord and Savior? Not my business.

51-year-old men seeking women, 29-40:
Fear death much? And dudes who seek women
of all ethnicities except Black: Go fuck yourselves.

3. Epilogue

Conservative men in shorts from McLean, who
golf and ski and like long walks on the beach:
I’ve had enough. I’m heading back to OkCupid.

There, at least, I know I’ll find
a well-endowed man who
procures for me the choicest cuts.


Sarah Browning is the author of Killing Summer and Whiskey in the Garden of Eden. Co-founder and past Executive Director of Split This Rock, the poetry and social justice organization, she now teaches with Writers in Progress. Browning received the Lillian E. Smith Award and fellowships from DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, VCCA, Yaddo, Porches, and Mesa Refuge. She holds an MFA in poetry and creative nonfiction from Rutgers Camden and lives in Philadelphia. More at

Walking Around the House During Quarantine by Bethany Chez

Walking Around the House During Quarantine

Did everyone notice we have a new family member,
my mom announces, referring to the sourdough starter
that she’s plopped on the buffet neighboring my dust-collecting
alligator keychain ornament. They recommend giving it a name…
Which I am sure the wooden pig with glass eyes upon the mantle
feels smug about, given he has no name and will never be eaten.
His tail and left hind leg were glued on long ago: a shattering
no one remembers anymore, so he relaxes high above us.
Less relaxed are the two finches in the stained glass in the window.
As long as I can remember I have heard these birds speaking
to each other about the bird house they’re sitting in front of.
They face each other: Is this it? We’re living here? I’m not sure.
And the other finch says: Yes, trust me, this is good.
The house is not exactly proportional to fit the finches
so their concerns are fair. Perhaps the confident finch
has spent too much time speaking with the Russian Nesting Doll
on the book shelf, who is not at all interested in space
or socializing: keep inside, keep close, keep safe, she repeats,
over and over again as her love materializes
in all seventeen babies each one insulated and accounted for,
their ornate paint as fresh and bright as the day they were made.


Bethany Chez is a poet living near Philadelphia. She received her M.S.Ed from the University of Pennsylvania and studied creative writing at Allegheny College.