Do I call them the lonely years

Sarah Browning 

nights alone in dive bars watching
baseball, sipping cheap gin? I was
relieved to be alone, to loose
the vigilance I’d kept over the man
I’d lately left – would he uncoil his
impatience, his anger: not at me /
at me / later, when I thought an evening
a success, we’d relaxed a bit, but no,
he’d tell me, I monopolized that one
friend, danced too much, or maybe,
sang. Sunday brunch a ruined thing –
this café in particular, tinged with
his despair as I tried to read the paper,
sip my overpriced macchiato, watch
the city stroll by. He stared at the eggs
congealing on his sorry plate. I had
already tried saying everything.
There was nothing left. No, I wasn’t
lonely, those years after, alone on
the red-cracked bar stool. The bartenders
were hot middle-aged hipsters and I’d
chat them up a bit – Anthony Rendon
was my man on the Nationals those years –
but from what I overheard I could tell
they were jerks to the women in their lives.
In a city of $16 martinis, I was happy
for the cheap-ass booze, baseball on TV,
Mondays’ half-price pizza. I know the pathos
trope: middle-aged women drinking alone
in dive bars. But fuck that – my body was
learning relief. I had no one to watch over,
no one’s shoulders to monitor for that
slumped sad set, no sudden hard kick
of a shoe abandoned too close to the door –
shoe, mine / frozen body, mine / child-
ghost frozen when the angry dad goes
angry, me. Yes, I will have another gin
and soda. My body is my own.

Sarah Browning is the author of two books of poems, Killing Summer (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017) and Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works, 2007). She is co-founder and for 10 years was Executive Director of Split This Rock and currently teaches for Writers in Progress. An Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, she has been guest editor or co-edited special issues of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Delaware Poetry Review, Origins, and POETRY magazine. She holds an MFA in poetry and creative nonfiction from Rutgers University Camden. More at: