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Jenny Browne

Jenny Browne is the author of Dear Stranger (University of Tampa Press, 2014). She teaches at Trinity University and is the 2016-2018 Poet Laureate of San Antonio, Texas. 

By This Poet

3

Love Letter to a Stranger

Tell us of a bypassed heart beating in 12C,
how the woman holds a stranger’s hand
to the battery sewn in beneath her collarbone,
and says feel this. Tell us of the man’s ear
listening across the aisle, hugging itself,
a fist long since blistered by blaze.
Outside, morning sun buckling up.
Inside, twitching bonesacks of bat, birdsong
erupting as light cracks the far jungle canopy.
Ten thousand feet below ours, a grey cat
tongues the morning’s butter left out to soft.
Last night we broke open the sweet folds
around two paper fortunes. One said variety.
One said caution. The woman in 12C would hold that
her heart needs its hidden spark, but the man shows
how some live the rest of their lives with half a face
remembering its before expression. Who was it
that said our souls know one another
by smell, like horses?

The Center for the Intrepid

$50 Million Rehabilitation Center Opens on Fort Sam Houston -San Antonio Express News, Jan 2007

Wheeled onto the jet leaving
my town, another soldier

whose pruned body echoes earth
liberating itself from gravity.

Inside the cave of his grey
-hooded shirt he sweats

as might a ghost or cello.
As in another war when a baptism

and birthday party band wrapped
their music in black garbage bags

and dug deep beside the Lempa river.
There they stayed until the air emptied

of metal and fear. Only the air never.
One of the first things learned

by a possible jury is that you cannot be
a witness against yourself.

What then is a body? I raised
my right hand. I still have

a right hand, knees, skin that tries
to explain its own brine and marrow.

It’s tomorrow and my children want the game
they call you be the monster, I’ll be the kid.

The grown-ups I know still walk around
make-believing they are in one piece.

We waited so long
to be sure of something.

The song below flinched
a little from the cold.

The song below asking who now
owns his bones?

When America Cuts My Daughter’s Hair

every chair in the strip mall
salon where she rents

a little space of her own
reflects a face waiting

to make a change. Another
mother next to me rips an ad

for the full Hollywood wax
& here the best graffiti:

DON’T DO DRUGS, BE SAD.
They’ll grow back, my own

mom on the bangs I butchered
more than once. Do you think

America is pretty? This skinny
blonde kid who never really

has to ask if she is, asks me
as we walk more hot city blocks

because by now we’ve chopped
the pecans to protect the power lines.

I think America is pretty. A pierced
Xicana with one side of her own

do done in deep brown waves,
the other buzzed tight

& dyed a bright chemical green.
America fits the description

& when she’s done holds up
her small mirror in the big one

turning my girl around
so she can see herself.

You can call me Erica, she says
if you like, but we like

America better here.