Time Zones by Leah Browning

Irritable, stricken with jet lag,
we spent a long night in Paris
arguing over a grievance
so petty I could scarcely remember it
the following day.

It was our first vacation alone
since the birth of our first child,
it was my first time in Europe,
and it had taken so much to get
to that moment in the hotel room—

but then nothing was as it should
have been.  All my years of French
seemed as useless there as they had
in Montreal, where we sat on the floor
of the airport waiting to see

if the plane would even take off.
It was the spring of 2010, when a cloud
of volcanic ash from Iceland
grounded flights across Europe—
an otherworldly scene

that unfolded on television as we spent
hours in the airport, surrounded by families
stranded on vacation in Canada
and unable to get home.  We’d taken
the train from Kingston to Montreal

not knowing whether it would be possible
to continue until the woman from the airline
said, “Let’s go to Paris,” and everyone cheered
and got in a line behind her and walked toward
the plane in that celebratory mood

and so it was a minor miracle that we had
gotten to Europe at all, under the circumstances,
and we were squandering it by staying up late
in a hotel room with flowers on the table
and a balcony overlooking a Parisian courtyard

and wishing that this agony would end.
We had tickets to London for the next day
and rather than give them up we rose early
and arrived exhausted and still a little angry
and couldn’t agree on anything to do

so we climbed the stairs to the top of a red
double decker tour bus and drove around
the city of London as a guide pointed out
Westminster Abbey and Big Ben.  I fell
asleep and didn’t wake up until the tour

was over and I’d missed everything
but you put your arm around me and we stayed
on the bus and drove around the city a second time
because that’s what this is, sometimes—
we keep waking up and waking up

and starting over

Leah Browning is the author of three short nonfiction books for teens and pre-teens and four chapbooks. Browning’s fiction and poetry have recently been published in Newfound, The Homestead Review, Santa Ana River Review, Coldnoon, Nebo, Bellows American Review, First Class Literary Magazine, Waypoints, A Bad Penny Review, GARO, and Clementine Unbound. Her work has also appeared on materials from Broadsided Press and Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf, in The Wardrobe, with audio and video recordings in The Poetry Storehouse, and in several anthologies including The Doll Collection from Terrapin Books. In addition to writing, Browning serves as editor of the Apple Valley Review. Her personal website is located at www.leahbrowning.com.