Leah Browning


At dawn, I wait at the kitchen window
while coffee brews and the paperboy
makes his long, lazy descent
from the top of the street, throwing
loosely, without looking left or right.
I’m eight again, playing dolls with my friend,
who has long blond hair and a younger sister
to play with my sister. Their parents
are named Kermit and Robin, like the frogs,
and at the top of the stairs, between the girls’
bedrooms, is a framed photograph of them
kissing at their wedding.
Everywhere I go in their house, I’m aware
of the photo, like a raw, red heart
beating right out in the open. In the afternoon,
we are in her room, making baby dolls sleep
while the grown-up dolls kiss, and there is music
from below. We creep out to the staircase
and peer over the edge, down into the living
room, where her father is holding her mother
in his arms and they are dancing, joking
and laughing, until they glance up and see us
and break apart, still laughing.

Now, years later, the paperboy rides away,
pedaling in a smooth arc around the corner
onto Maple. He leaves me
in piercing silence at the kitchen window,
blinking in the pale morning light
while Kermit and Robin dance
a tender pas de deux on the front lawn
and you go on sleeping,
miles away in the bedroom upstairs.


First published in St. Cloud Unabridged, January 2003.

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