American Life in Poetry


Love poems written in the sonnet form, all hearts and flowers, are a dime a dozen, so it’s a delight to see a poet coming at the sonnet from the flip side. Here’s Chelsea Rathburn, who lives in Georgia.

After Filing for Divorce

Your paperwork in, it’s like the morning after

a party, the shaken survey of damage,

a waste of bottles where there was laughter.

It all seems so much more than you can manage:

the accusing cups and stubbed-out cigarettes,

the sun assaulting the window, your throbbing head.

It’s not enough to face your own regrets

(though they’re coming back fast, the things you said)

because someone’s trailed bean dip across the table,

someone’s ground salsa in the rug with his shoe.

So you start to clean, as much as you are able,

and think how far those hours have fled from you,

before the hangover and your sour tongue,

when you felt lovely, and infinite, and young.

Poem copyright 2013 by Chelsea Rathburn from “A Raft of Grief” (Autumn House Press), and reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. American Life in Poetry is supported by The Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


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