My latest new favorite poet is Chelsea Rathburn. The below poem (from American Life in Poetry: Column 467) is a sonnet that approaches the form from a different angle. While the subject matter is about love (albeit love gone awry), Ms. Rathburn’s language elevates the reader (using a type of poem that can often be “flowery” and “gushing”) enabling a vision of both a sonnet and the messy complications of divorce in a wholly new way. The comparison between a newly filed divorce and “the morning after” are a particular stroke of brilliance; read on!
“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.
My favorite is the final couplet:
“before the hangover and your sour tongue,
when you felt lovely, and infinite, and young.”
Its main comparison captures the razor-sharp difference but also the strange kinship of love and “after-love”.
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