Sunday, April 1, 2007

Leah Browning

We Argue About The Aesthetics Of Garbage

The green couch, its pale arm peeled back
to reveal cardboard and staples, leaks
clumps of stuffing across the grass.

We’ve carried it all the way up from the basement,
lifted it over the railing, pinched our fingers
shimmying it through the doorway.

This is the first furniture we ever bought together,
now marred by claw marks and baby vomit,
the threadbare pillow covers peeled off and washed

a hundred times. All night, the couch will sit outside
in the dark, supporting an old stroller’s spongy handle,
pieced back together with strips of clear duct tape.

At first, we are laughing as I adjust the couch,
placing it perpendicular to the lip of black asphalt,
and neatly stack the discarded paper boxes

on the grass next to the trash can. “Leave it be,”
you finally say, and when I refuse, you go inside
without me. I move each item until it is just

where it should be, and then I lie down
on the green couch and watch cars drive by
this precise and orderly arrangement.


I am undressing right now,
in front of you. It’s not
a sexual act, but an act
of devotion. Look: you can see me.

I unbutton my blouse, slide my skirt
down over my hips. I kick off
my shoes. Here I am, stripping down

to my bare bones. Here are my heart,
my lungs, the perfect curves of my kidneys.
Everything that is perfect, imperfect;
everything that makes me whole.

I offer it all.

And when you are ready, I will fold you
in. Align your slim white bones with mine,
lay our organs side by side. Don’t worry,
I’ll tell you. This will only hurt for a second.

New Mexico As the Heartland

You go back to New Mexico and find it softened; in your
absence, it has become beautiful. The mountains slope,
rust-red and tan, a knobbled mixture of dirt and rock
dotted with scrubby green bushes. The road winds past
a wall of mountain on one side, a steep ravine on the
other. You are taken by the harsh beauty of the land, by
the power and magnificence of it all. The summer sky is
sunny and warm, and when you arrive at the house, you
take your daughter to pick peaches from the tree in the
front yard. Together, you hold hands as you walk inside
to sit at the wide wooden table and eat them. Here at
the front of the house, banks of solar windows tease the
sun in through broad panels of glass, turning everything
sunny: the table, the walls, the red brick of the floor.

That night, as you look up at the ceiling, at the planks of
wood fitted neatly together, at the solid wood vigas you
spent every night of your childhood looking up at, as you
listen to the coyotes howling in the cold mountain air,
hunting rabbits under the stars, under this grand and
unforgiving sky, as you drive home and go back to the
streetlamps and oak trees, as you return to your everyday
life, shadows of you will remain scattered in your wake,
like pages torn out of a book: another version of you will
stay behind, lying forever sleepless in the layers of silence
of a summer night; another will walk to the store to buy
milk, panting at the altitude; and another will go on eating
peaches in the sunlight, sitting at your mother’s warm
wooden table with your child at your side.

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