Friday, July 27, 2018

Michael H. Brownstein: Poems

Michael H. Brownstein has nine poetry chapbooks including A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), and The Possibility of Sky and Hell (White Knuckle Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).


One moment you feel a weight of gravity,
A blanket, for example, the first light,
A slight draft and then, out of focus,
You come into yourself and understand
The confusion of ghosts. How unsettling to be
Alone. You were dreaming and now
You are watching yourself sleep.
When they come, you will not be ready.
In those minutes, in those days, in that first week,
Can you not hear the thunder? The watcher?
The making of the pyre? Nails to wood?
Sorry, there is nothing here—just wind
You now control, a wall no longer in the way.
How do you make a ghost? Someone was not there
When someone was needed. You were alone
When you could not reach out to laughter.
Let the thunder roar, let the sitter sit with you,
Let a candle light your way, let the warmth come near,
Let your lack of weight make it that much easier.
Somewhere there must be a home for you.
Somewhere there must be a brightness to grow into.


Because I turned off the heat
Because I closed the back room windows
Because the wind is an empty threat
and the bottle is an empty bottle
Because the juice in the bottle was once sweet
Because the cheese in the refrigerator is molding
Because the bread on top of the refrigerator is green
Because there are seeds on your stockings
and you are tracking pollen through the house
Because antiseptic wipes can take only so much
and then they are as useless as the heat
when I went to the basement and turned it off
In the house of too much food
In the playground of too much exercise equipment
In the storeroom of too much of nothing
nothing to eat nowhere to sleep not a single seat
no toys no games no books no clothes
In the apartment of too many people
In the garden of too many weeds
Dandelions, clover, crabgrass and so many
leaves for boiling and baking,
stems and roots and large growths of mushroom
In the street of too many cars and trucks
In the beach of too many dead fish and seagulls
In the ocean teeming with algae and a lack of oxygen
and so much carbon dioxide and plastic debris
and strangled turtles decomposing for years
and years and then everything captured by large tangles
of forests of algae expanding and expanding
until the water is dead vertebrates
and all of the small invertebrates surviving
on this new quality of nonoxygenated being
In the banks full of too little money
but incredible amounts of greed and bloodshed

Then we’re in the castle of the big growth forests
Then we’re surrounded by acorns and pistachio nuts
Then the sunlight filters to the grandiose weeds
Then the path fills with sunlight and sunshine,
large clear shadows and large opaque beings
Then we run to clearings and find empty graves
full of stones, pebbles and grass clippings,
mites, centipedes and bluebird feathers
Then a dragon cloud devours the sky
Then it begins to rain and the roof of the castle leaks
stone and plaster and lead paint in large flakes
until the frescoed floor is dotted with white smudges
and our shoes are the color of lime ash and charcoaled wood
Then everything settles into a silence as great as God
and the nations of the planet do not even notice
Then the thinning begins, great birds, long reptiles,
one flick of the tongue of the Komodo dragon
Afterwards there will be little left of what was left to begin with
Afterwards the language of words will be devoid of vocal sounds
and pronunciation will be in the form of whistles and breathing
no one able to communicate until letters are again announced
fitting the afterwards of the world as we say it is directly now
Afterwards will be exactly after that one scar of a word loosens
itself into the realm of invention and intervention
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will eat the dry fruit on the plain
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will sleep in the tall grass
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will allow us to speak
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will speak for us and we will know
Afterwards the words will come freely and fill us with longing
Afterwards we will cry with relief and sing the song of words
whistling, breathing, growling, are teeth bright and sharp

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