By Susan Browne
Featured image: Couple on a Cot, c. 1874-1877 by John Singer Sargent
I once walked past a man on February 14th
who was peeing on a window display,
teetering on his tiptoes & bent backward
aiming at the word love written in red curlicues.
Robins fat as cupids watched from the hedges.
At the end of the block I had to look again, too.
He was still going at it like an acrobat or a camel.
I thought I might do the same thing
if I had the equipment because love was a spike
in the vena cava or an arrow in the brain,
the great spurns of fate turning kisses into thorns.
Sometimes I make myself sick with nostalgia.
I can’t help it if I listen to Dan Fogelberg Radio.
I used to play Dan’s song “Longer” on the guitar
& weep that my longest relationship was with my dog.
She once pulled the sock out of a man’s shoe
while he was wearing it in my doorway.
My dog didn’t stop growling for an hour
after he left. She knew he wasn’t for me,
but who was? & then I met you.
We once kissed all day long & lost weight.
My students all got A’s, called themselves The Love Class.
I once told you that in my next life I’d be a weatherperson
& asked what you’d be. “Dead,” you said.
If my dog had still been alive then
she’d have known you were the guy for me.
Even though we’ve been together longer
than any forest primeval, I want to go to bed with you
in this dark middle of an afternoon,
tell you about the cumulonimbus & nimbostratus
clouds that mean rain is on its way. Without any words,
let me teach you the word petrichor, which means
that earthy smell that accompanies first rain
after a long spell of warm, dry weather.
Susan Browne’s poetry has appeared in Ploughshares, The Sun, The Southern Review, Superstition Review, Rattle, The American Journal of Poetry, and 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day. Her first book, Buddha’s Dogs (Four Way Books), was awarded the Intro Prize. Her second book, Zephyr (Steel Toe Books), won the Editor’s Prize. Her third collection, Just Living, is forthcoming from Catamaran. She teaches at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California.
Feature image: Corcoran Collection (Gift of Miss Emily Sargent and Mrs. Francis Ormond, sisters of the artist). Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington.