Jennifer Browne

Migration, Liturgy of the Hours, On Parenting, The Museum of Broken Relationships, Armadillo: Jennifer Browne


The V of geese is flying south.
They’re honking, squonking,
“gone, gone, gone.”
Meanwhile, other birds
are leaving quietly,
slipping out the side door,
and I think, “They’ll be back.”

Alone in the house.
No one has asked for anything.
I eat the leftover asparagus,
with my fingers, from a cold bowl.
My cheeks are streaked
with marinade, my hands
are filled with their own choices.

I may not have gone to market,
but I did go away, telling tales
to send him off to sleep
with dreams of happy endings.
I dreaded coming back.
When I did, I cried
we. we. we.
all the way home.

Liturgy of the Hours

At a neighboring table
a baby wanting Cheerios
shows her mother
the sign for please.
We, too, have been speaking
in gestures, the bed
barely needs to be made,
our sleeping is so still.

Where you’re concerned,
I have romanticized
the convent:
bells ordering the day,
vows of silence.

I want to see us as composed
of reverence, of devotion,
to love the body as a monastery,
to think of singing prayers
in the smallest parts
of your hands across the table.

You finally look up
to ask what it is that I want,
but I can’t answer.
Nothing. I want for nothing.

We’ve settled into our quiet.
The baby raises its chubby hands
signs more, please, more.


On Parenting

For my brother on the morning of his first child’s birth

Once you played a reluctant salmon,
gave it ample line, followed
its darts and pauses through
a mile of brush-thick shoreline,
and only when you finally
brought it to your exhausted hands,
as you crouched and marveled
at its thrumming shimmer,
did you notice the moose
standing behind you,
a giant thing ready to kick you to death.
It will be like that.


The Museum of Broken Relationships

Zagreb, Croatia

Why display this sad detritus
other than to ask
a dispassionate voyeur
to justify or witness,
like visiting the half-rubble
walls of a bombed church,
someplace that was sacred
and is wreckage now.

The tourist builds a choir loft
and a choir, hears the soaring
voices, the reverberation,
feels consecrated,
then walks away.

And on my shelf is a book
of yours I’ll hold but never read,


“Lee County Sheriff’s deputies said 54-year-old Larry McElroy was outside when he fired his 9 mm pistol at the armadillo. The bullet killed the animal, but also ricocheted off of it, hit a fence, went through the back door of his mother-in-law’s mobile home, through a recliner she was sitting in, and into her back.” Christian McKinney


Little armored one,
how quickly you’re made
an accomplice
in an old joke,
but that ricochet
A man’s wrath
finds one target
and then another.
A wife hardens
against an enfilade,
and there are children
Everyone carries
a little shrapnel.
But sometimes,
the bullet ricochets
back, hits the man
in his own jaw
while the armadillo
wanders away.



Jennifer Browne lives with caffeine addiction, importunate curiosity, and an intermittent stutter in Frostburg, MD, where she is a Lecturer in English and the Director of the Center for Literary Arts at Frostburg State University. She has published poetry in The Peninsula Review, Maryland Poetry Review, American Writing: A Magazine, Backbone Mountain Review, and The Potomac.