After Filing for Divorce by Chelsea Rathburn | Ted Kooser

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.

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.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2013 by Chelsea Rathburn, from her most recent book of poems, A Raft of Grief, Autumn House Press, 2013. Poem reprinted by permission of Chelsea Rathburn and Autumn House Press. Introduction copyright © 2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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