The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Leah Browning’s “Halfway Through the Biography of Anne Sexton”



Things begin to fall apart. The kids are sick,
the car’s engine won’t turn over, all the light bulbs are breaking.
My fingers swell in the night. It’s the salt, the sugar, the heat—
but it seems symptomatic of some larger failing.

Autumn. It’s been raining for days and days, and she’s back
in the hospital again—is it the third time, the fourth?
I can’t help thinking of the skirts she used to wear, the position
of her hand on the banister, all the secret codes and signs.

The old life—the two of them holding hands on the porch,
children running on the summer grass—
did it all melt like ice under the smoldering weight
of the words in her head? Or did it ever exist at all?

Outside, the rain falls heavily, like sparrows
striking the roof. Her body is so slight, so fragile—
and yet we are all silent, standing here in the dark, waiting
once more for even a hint of breath, or a soft rush of wings. 


This selection is from Leah Browning’s chapbook, In the Chair Museum, available from dancing girl pressPurchase your copy here!

Leah Browning is the author of three nonfiction books for teens and pre-teens (Capstone Press) and three chapbooks: In the Chair Museum (Dancing Girl 2013),  Picking Cherries in the Española Valley (Dancing Girl Press, 2010) and Making Love to the Same Man for Fifteen Years (Big Table Publishing, 2009).  Browning’s fiction, poetry, essays, and articles have previously appeared in a variety of publications, including Queen’s Quarterly, Queen’s Feminist Review, 42opus, The Saint Ann’s Review, Blood Orange Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Brink Magazine, Halfway Down the Stairs, Sweet: A Literary Confection, and Per Contra, as well as on a broadside from Broadsided Press, on postcards from the program Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf, and in several anthologies.  In addition to writing, Browning serves as editor of the Apple Valley Review.  Her personal website is located at


Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the author of two full-length collections, The Fear of Being Found (Three Candles Press 2008) and The Naming of Strays (Gold Wake Press 2011). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Mid-American, 32 Poems, Zone 3, Gargoyle, Tusculum Review, and Crab Orchard Review. She teaches a bit of everything in the English Department at the University of Tennessee and serves as the managing editor of Sundress Publications and Stirring.