Susan Browne's first book of poetry, Buddha's Dogs, won the Four Way Books Intro Prize. Her second collection, Zephyr, won the Editor's Prize at Steel Toe Books. She teaches at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California.
While playing tennis, I never think of death.
Instead, I notice the clouds like a white shag rug
when I toss the ball up high for the serve,
my face filling with sky and neon green fuzz,
and then that wonderful thwack
as I smash matter against matter
with the body’s happy violence.
Game over, my opponent leaves for work,
and there’s nothing as glorious as an empty tennis court
surrounded by walnut trees on a morning in October.
So why does sadness flow
like bees and honey through my chest,
and I suppose that’s too poetic,
but brace yourself for more literary horror:
tears fall, and I’m sure you’ll groan when I revise
and tell you the little valleys beneath my eyes
are wet, or perhaps I should get literal and precisely
name them: wrinkles. Don’t worry, the seizure of feeling
has passed, and I won’t mention autumn
or longing like the breeze lifting
the edges of the clouds and rolling them up
to disappear into infinity’s storage unit.
I won’t say a thing about the V of geese rising
above the chain-link fence, their calls
sounding exactly like nuns keening, and not a whisper
will I breathe about my hunger for God.
I will go do my errands and pretend living
doesn’t sometimes rip my heart like a backhand shot
down the line, or too often seem like dandelion dust
scattering over the beautiful, mortal tennis court.