Joan by Sarah C. Harwell

Joan sits and moans It’s too loud in here
Joan once went on African safari.
Joan has three children living large.
Joan’s life has gotten very small.
Joan can’t decide which food to eat.
Joan eats three meatballs then retreats.

Joan has some words left. But they’re hard to speak.
Joan once rode on a crocodile.
What’s left of Joan is leaving.
What’s left behind steals and cheats. 
Joan is not Joan so much.

What’s left is mostly no.
Her grip, grown strong like a fist,
grips her husband’s wrist, won’t let go.
He tolerates and then unwraps it gently—

this unwanted gift. Oh Joan. 
You were a gracious woman.
A certain class, a certain world. 

Now at the end, it all looks different.
They make you go to fancy restaurants.
You stare at me, your eyes are stone. 

At the table talk of what goes on.
Joan wants to know what to eat.
She wants a little quiet and to go home.

It’s too loud, all this living.
It’s too loud here, at the dinner.

She repeats, I don’t know what to eat.
She turns to tell me 

what’s already clear, Joan says, 
it’s too loud in here. 


Sarah C. Harwell is the author of the collection Sit Down Traveler (2012) and, with Courtney Queeney and Farah Marklevits, Three New Poets (2006). Harwell’s honors include the Joyce Carol Oates Prize in Poetry and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. She teaches at Syracuse University and lives in Syracuse, New York.

Front Cover Issue 64