Leah Browning 

close up of birch bark

Leah Browning is the author of Two Good Ears and Loud Snow, mini-books of flash fiction published by Silent Station Press, and When the Sun Comes Out After Three Days of Rain, a full-length collection of poetry published by Kelsay Books. She is also the author of three short nonfiction books for teens and pre-teens and six chapbooks of poetry and fiction. Browning’s work has previously appeared in Harpur PalateFour Way ReviewFlockThe Petigru ReviewSuperstition ReviewTerrain.orgParhelion Literary MagazineNecessary FictionOyster River PagesPoetry SouthPonder ReviewThe Westchester ReviewThe Ilanot ReviewThe Broadkill ReviewBelletrist MagazineClementine UnboundTipton Poetry JournalThe Stillwater Review, and elsewhere. Her poetry and fiction have also appeared on materials from Broadsided Press and Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf, with audio and video recordings in The Poetry Storehouse, and in anthologies including The Doll Collection from Terrapin Books and Nothing to Declare: A Guide to the Flash Sequence from White Pine Press. In addition to writing, Browning has edited the Apple Valley Review since 2005.

Wednesday Afternoon

First published in When the Sun Comes Out After Three Days of Rain, a collection of poetry by Leah Browning (Kelsay Books, 2022).

on the last day of my cat’s life
we sat in the waiting room at the vet
with an old, sick dog who kept
resting his head against my knee

the TV on the wall was turned down
too low for me to hear
but on the news an 18-year-old girl had been
stabbed to death outside a BART train

a video showed people lined up
along the walls of a station
lying on the ground in sleeping bags
and on the train a used needle
was sticking out of a seat cushion

at a stoplight on the way here
a boy sat in the passenger seat
of his dad’s truck
with his hands over his face
and a hospital band on one wrist

for some reason I thought of the girl
who meant to make a light cut
but sliced her arm so deeply
that she had to have surgery

on the radio they’re saying
Demi Lovato OD’d on heroin
and the college student in Iowa
who went out for a run is still missing

in front of me a young woman
with long hair dyed purple
and pulled back in a ponytail
crosses the street without looking up

and it’s obviously hopeless but still
everyone goes on trying

Lucky Stars

First published in When the Sun Comes Out After Three Days of Rain, a collection of poetry by Leah Browning (Kelsay Books, 2022).

I saw you again last night
in my rearview mirror

when I stopped at a red light.
You were driving the car

behind me, hands on ten
and two, your hair dark

again and a little too long,
facing away, keeping time

with a song on the radio.
Everything around us

was discolored
from the sodium vapor lighting

that once turned a white car red,
the witness so adamant

that the detectives assigned to the case
spent years searching for the wrong man.

In Russian, a misfit
is not a black sheep

but a white crow,

white as snow, white as birch trees,
white as the faux fur

she bent over
night after night

at her sewing table,
cutting and pinning the ears

of one of the many costumes
that turned him into an animal.

White as the reams of paper
in their bankers boxes,

as the bleached skull
they found in the desert.

White as the stars, though, too,
overhead as the traffic light turns green

and this embodiment of you
turns in a different direction

and I release myself from the dazzling cage
of city streets

and go forward
until nothing is visible but the night sky

and below it the black asphalt
unwinding endlessly in front of me.