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Two poems by Leah Browning

American Housewife

Go back to 1952

or ’54—

your choice—

and plug your state-of-the-art

vacuum cleaner

into the wall.

There are the carpets

and the rugs

and the special attachment

for the drapes

and the most powerful nozzle

guaranteed to take the calendar

right off the wall

and your shopping lists

for the next day

and the day after that

and the carrots and potatoes

on the kitchen counter

waiting to be peeled

and put in the oven

for dinner

and the homework

on the table

and the children

in their beds

where you’ve left them

since this morning

like paper dolls

because you’re not in the mood

to play with them today

and your husband—

your husband—

you can catch him

at the door

when he comes home

from work

looking for a dry

martini and a hot

steak and a patient woman

to lie underneath

him so that he

can finish his day off


Suburban Dreams

The grass is cut so perfectly

that you could measure it with a ruler

and your rose bushes are the envy

of the neighborhood

Sally has practiced her scales

until she could play them in her sleep

and Mrs. Woodard wants her

to play in a special recital next month

(because with the last teacher

you could play for fun

but this one is dry and humorless

with a list of strict instructions

and #1 is never let my cat out

when you come for your lesson

though the cat is nowhere near the door

and you’re not a dummy

but she thinks that you are

and addresses you as such)

but it’s all right because the meatloaf

will turn out perfectly and the potatoes

roasted in their jackets with coarse

Kosher salt and thick pats of butter

and in summer you take the kids for a week

at the lake where he grills burgers

and you split open a watermelon so sweet and red

it makes your eyes burn

and you go to church on Sunday

and cheer on the team

and take a Jell-O salad

to the potluck

the one you like with the cherries

and whipped cream and marshmallows

and it’s the best Jell-O salad

anyone’s had and they ask for your recipe

and maybe that night Bill

from two doors away

will think of you

while he’s going down on his wife

because it’s too early for key parties yet—

you’ve still got a decade or two—

so in the meantime you win

ribbons for your needlepoint

and iron the bedsheets so smooth

that you sleep like an angel

and wake with your hair

perfectly coiffed

and your teeth already brushed

and the coffee percolating

and the dishes washed

and breakfast on the table

and the children’s clothes

starched on their hangers

the dog’s nails clicking on the linoleum

and the sun glinting in the window

through a freshly washed pane

onto your fine pink fingernails

and your glossy, glossy hair

and everything that sparkles and shines.


Leah Browning is the author of three short nonfiction books and six chapbooks. Her most recent chapbooks are Orchard City, a collection of short fiction published by Hyacinth Girl Press in 2017, and Out of Body, a collection of poetry published by Dancing Girl Press in 2018.  Browning’s fiction and poetry have recently appeared in publications including Mojave River ReviewBelletrist MagazinePoetry SouthThe Stillwater ReviewFour Way ReviewThe Forge Literary MagazineThe Threepenny ReviewValparaiso Fiction Review, and Watershed Review. Her poems have also appeared on a broadside from Broadsided Press, on postcards and bookmarks from the program Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf, with audio and video recordings in The Poetry Storehouse, in The Wardrobe, and in several anthologies including The Doll Collection from Terrapin Books.

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