Sarah Browning

Three Poems in Response to “Richard III”

Yemenis Question U.S. Drone Strategy

According to the Long War Journal, at least 116 people were killed in U.S. airstrikes in Yemen last year.
Washington Post, February 9, 2014


Yemen’s Interior Ministry apologized

Thy mother’s name is ominous to children

the cousins were innocent… it was “their fate” to die

From forth the kennel of thy womb hath crept
a hellhound that doth hunt us all to death

every effort to minimize civilian casualties

Put in their hands thy bruising irons of wrath

people give them intelligence –

Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams,

and then it turns out that the U.S. targeted a political rival

To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other

Every time they kill an innocent person

Reap the harvest of perpetual peace
By this one bloody trial of sharp war

they motivate the families to join al-Qaeda

Long mayst thou live to wail thy children’s death

Note: Italicized quotes are from Richard III
Richard III, Hogarth

“David Garrick as Richard III,” William Hogarth, 1745.

Lady Anne

The sleek apple of your charm.
The poisoned apple of my disgust,

rotten core of your betrayal.
Crisp apple of sex

you bite sweet open –
sugary tang of me,

all, juice and stick on your lips
and chin I taste from you.

You hand me back the smooth
and perfect apple of your charm

to admire, to desire, and I do. I do.


Rainy April Fool’s Day in Italy

Richard III penny

Richard III penny

The daffodils I bought at the market
are two-toned trumpets declaring desire,
its thump and grind: empty.
I’ve got half a mind to tell it off –
all of spring – and another half to turn
the anger inward. The rain drips.

Somebody promises fulfillment
but the same someone is stuck
in the circle of Hell Dante reserves
for flatterers: Don’t you think
that I deserve it?
asks the customer and the harlot replies
You do, you’re marvelous
and so condemns herself.

Who’s the lying son of a bitch in that story –
the borrower, the lender, Dante’s whole underground
world of Florentine rivals writhing in Hell
for aligning with the wrong side?
Money grubbers and wasters. Gluttons.
Heretics and skeptics. Tyrants. Sexual perverts.
Suicides. Plunderers. Deeper still, pimps.
And then, even lower, flatterers. Not as damned
as futurologists and hypocrites but well
below the murderers and squanderers.

I can’t imagine anyone’s out there
flattering this rain, the clock’s angry tick.
I’m not. I’ve got my own pain to think about,
how it takes up residence all day.
What’s the difference now: rain or sparkling spring.
We’re all made of one thing
and the same is true of its opposite.
Crawl around inside your despair. Tap on its walls.
Test its floorboards. Will it hold your weight?


“Rainy April Fool’s Day in Italy” reprinted from MiPoesias, with permission by the author.


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), and co-editor of D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology. Browning is co-founder and Executive Director of Split This Rock: Poetry of Provocation & Witness and an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. She is the recipient of fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, a Creative Communities Initiative grant, and the People Before Profits Poetry Prize. Browning has been guest editor or co-edited special issues of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Delaware Poetry Review, and POETRY Magazine. To read more by this author: Sarah Browning: Summer 2004; Sarah Browning: Whitman Issue; Sarah Browning's Intro to The Wartime Issue, Spring 2006; Sarah Browning: DC Places Issue; Sarah Browning: Split This Rock Issue; Sarah Browning: Museum Issue; Sarah Browning on DC Poets Against the War: Literary Organizations Issue; Sarah Browning: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue; Sarah Browning: Floricanto Issue.