Four poems by Michael H. Brownstein

Choctaw Village near the Chefuncte, by Francois Bernard, 1869, Peabody Museum – Harvard University. The women are preparing dye to color cane strips for making baskets.
Choctaw Village near the Chefuncte, by Francois Bernard, 1869, Peabody Museum – Harvard University. The women are preparing dye to color cane strips for making baskets.

AN HOUR AGO NOTHING MUCH HAPPENED

What is it
–today–
–a week ago–
sleeping in the dragonfield mines?
:the breath of passion flower overhead
the jaws of the dandelion
the strength of blood tulips craning their stems through the shadow growth

how many times
–last night–
–the first week in May–
slipping through the fired lisps of dragon teeth?
:a wealth in persimmon juice
a poverty of lilies of the mountain west of Maine
the drawback of the morning glory

MORNING

The taxi cab company’s back on its feet again,
resting,
the sun rising.
the cement factory’s chemical steam washing the air
sky-blue and cloud-light,
long semi trailers docking at the tire distributor
in need of naps,
the river glows,
and the sleepy train pulls in on time.
Night shadow diminishes in shape,
criminals, whores, war mongers,
con artists, predators, thieves,
bullies of the dark—night is over.
Construction workers in the towers,
elevated trains off tune swing on the tracks,
coffee shops, spices, tea,
a development of chocolate—
morning, Lagos.

A JEHOVA WITNESS TOLD ME: BEFORE THE WORLD IS DESTROYED THERE WILL BE DIVINE INTERVENTION AND I ALONE WILL SURVIVE

because Richard Corey is the true Jehovah

We walk down the blue-lined streets of litter and tension,
the sky exhausted and white haired.
They told me the earth was a living beast
riding a tortoise shell across the light of space,
the shell old and degraded, the tortoise long gone,
only the tusks of an elephant spiking its center.
No elephant. No tortoise. The shadows of dawn
calm, a poodle mating with a shepherd, the house
on the corner bright with lights of unhappiness.
Can you not smell the carcasses of thick gray skin,
the acid in the water taking out a memory of fish?
Everywhere a hand torments itself with touch,
the ears the noise of poverty and disuse,
taste a matter for another time. The poodle
lets go and the shepherd rushes to the alley
in search of the smell and the bones piled there.
“This is the will of my world,” Richard Corey says,
a bullet in his hand, a gun in his desk drawer,
the lights in the bad-luck house flickering. “Let go.”

WE WEAVED A BOW TIE ACROSS THE STORM

the Aborigine sky
bright grey blue
Choctaw

a lurching of grasshoppers
deep in the weed
the shriek of crickets

didjeridu
bull-roarer
gum-leaf

peepers in the grass,
the large hand of a child
thick as brown dessert air

clapsticks
kora
karimba bali

Michael H. BrownsteinMichael H. Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses. His work has appeared in The Café Review, American Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Xavier Review, Hotel Amerika, Free Lunch, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, and The Pacific Review. He has nine chapbooks including I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011), Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012) and The Possibility of Sky and Hell: From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).

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