Tuesday, September 6, 2011

poems by Michael H. Brownstein

It's quite clear what I have done--
I took the bones and planted them
in the grass filled yard of leaf and wind 
Well, it's very simple:
she knocked the earth out of me,
tore the wind through my skin.
What choice did I have?
You kiss someone for years
and then you don't kiss them anymore.
When did the moment pass,
the half hour before midnight's full moon?
The half hour afterwards?
There you have it. Nothing more to say.
She shredded the lettuce my spirit
so I made a garden out of hers. 

Dead friends, I have come for your skin, your story stones,
your fire for making glass. There is snow
in the distant cavities and large bonfires full of secrets
and other troublesome scrap. I may need those, too,
tomorrow or yesterday, but not now. How have you been
holed in darkness and dirt? I hope you have learned
to value root, groundwater, vole and rock,
blood worms moist with wet soil. Dead friends,
I am prepared to carry everything you have prepared
to give me to carry. Come. Follow me as you can.
I understand how light can hurt. Come anyway.
You are already blind. Wind can do no more damage. 

Don't badger the enemy when he walks onto the Reign of Terror.
Step back to observe.
Watch his hands, his eyes, his knees. Especially his knees. 
They are the most confusing part of a human
cracking, breaking, sometimes falling to the wayside.
Check the field for potholes and traps, locust burns and devil's claw--
all things that thirst for fractures, blood or light.
Make sure you don't attach yourself to things that cling to flesh.
Only then should you enter the Brickyard of Sapphires.
Glitter is everything.
Don't let its sun get in your head. 
The graveyard voices gray and overcast blue,
an edge to the Ethiopian dessert,
the grand vultures waiting, and further south,
the grander elephants stepping off track
to caress the bones of a fallen sister.
In 2001 we rat bombed islands near Panama
and in 2010 people bombed villages in Afghanistan
with enough poison to cover their dead.
The voices in the graveyard have been known
to scream and if you settle where the crab grass grows,
you can hear them skipping over
locust burns and dandelion bones.
Water, too, needs a sorting place
away from confusion but the voices flow
into it, the voices flow with it
even as we death bomb and death bomb
bone, powder, flesh, fog, burning hair--
stone and scorpion, marker and-- 

rain into dust, dust scours the air,
the hem of earth begins to tear


The sun sprays its light into the sweat strewned day,
the blue sky slang, curse words and cloud fall.
Spit falls over the valley like the stench of skunk hit by a car
and steam empties itself into the air until every breath we take holds water.
“I am giving you your life back” I say, and you accept,
your left hand closing, the shape of your lips a different pattern.
I pick up my book bag and head out into the broiling heat of the land.

Michael H. Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses. His work has appeared in The CafĂ© Review, American Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Xavier Review, Hotel Amerika, After Hours, Free Lunch, MeridianAnthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review and others. In addition, he has eight poetry chapbooks including The Shooting Gallery (Samidat Press, 1987), Poems from the Body Bag (Ommation Press, 1988), A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004) and What Stone Is (Fractal Edge Press, 2005).
Brownstein taught elementary school in Chicago’s inner city, studies authentic African instruments, conducts grant-writing workshops for educators, and records performance and music pieces with grants from the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs, the Oppenheimer Foundation, BP Leadership Grants, and others.