Why he went to the shelter finally by Michael H. Brownstein

She pokes holes into the body’s work of a person
until the body’s work of the person is poked through—
 
deflation, deflationary, deflationist,
gut-shot punctuation, fiber blast evacuation—
 
vocabulary hard wood and hard stone
obsidian and Modoc lava, soft bone of the wing of wren
 
noise blasting ejaculation, terrorist rendering distillation,
detest, detestation, detestionist
 
and the body bleeds a vocabulary of smoke without fire,
meanings within cruelty without touch,.
 
He walked away from the noise more than once,
and then found he did not have to always reenter the room.

Michael H. Brownstein work has appeared in The Café Review, American Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Xavier Review, Hotel Amerika, Free Lunch, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including  A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), What Stone Is (Fractal Edge Press, 2005), Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), and The Possibility of Sky and Hell: From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013).

The Ways of Agent Orange by Michael H. Brownstein

Once I listened to a poet
who wrote lines about Cincinnati
using the Yellow Pages,
the names of corporations,
factories, the outpouring of chemical
into the early evening sky.
I saw the sky she saw, the setting sun,
the slow motion vibration of light
through a pollution of setting sun
caught in prisms, the end of day
wonderful with color, a drizzle
of compounds, everything
rainbowlithic. Years later a river
in that town caught fire.
So I ask you, Agent of Orange, can you
hear the beauty in that poem, too?
Did you see the splatter of spray
over American soldiers,
Vietnamese, the now extinct forest
wildlife and trees a display
of beauty? Did you not know
what it would cover, its effects
on people and life, the evolution
of humans to almost humans?
Did you not think the fish would change
and the water buffalo and the small peeper?
How could you not comprehend
the spread of poison down the Saigon River
into the oceans, the threads of life,
spreading its wealth into all of us?
The poet read a poem about dusk
in Cincinnati and I a poem
somewhat different, but still laden
with chemical and its rainbow of defects
that refuse to go away, but continue
until even rice might hold fire in its seed
burning its way slowly into all of us.

The Aftermath by Michael H. Brownstein

after a visit to the Pine Ridge, South Dakota

I woke badly this morning
flesh of cucumbers piled on the kitchen counter
the dogs resting behind their barricade
outside, a Monsanto gray

the snare drum still needs a resting place
two cardboard boxes outside the door rust
a splinter of glycerin in my palm
a running field with a keep off sign
green leaves oil dark

some days the sun misses the point
Pine Ridge gathers itself in shadow and pollutants
yesterday no one marched

Strength by Michael H. Brownstein

The duck of winter heavy with clouds of snow and sleet,

did not offer relief, nor did the shacks built for strong men,

nor did the barbed wire fences bent to keep us in.

 

There is a story about how the slaves in Mississippi,

tired of the abuse and hatred of slave owners and overseers

leaped into the air and flew home.

 

The winter that year was colder than most,

And the strong among us—for we were all strong—

Worked with pain and insight, a knowledge of evil.

 

The slaves filled the skies with outstretched arms.

For a moment, the skies blackened with their shapes

their shadows, and then they were gone.

 

Behind the fences, within the camps of poisoned minds

and ignorance, we sang Torah, praised God,

and we too knew how to fly away: We built community. .

 

There is solace in flight, solace in prayer, solace in praise.

There is solace in light and shadow,

solace in flight and thoughts of flight.

 

When the war ended, our suffering was still great,

but we were strong before the war, and we were stronger

after it came to a closing and we are even stronger now.

A Lie of Suicide by Michael H. Brownstein

We sit together on the patio

That was once a porch.

Rhonda comes to us

Her head swollen and raisin

To tell us how they kicked in

The door of the place

She was staying

And found enough illegal items

To put her roommates away.

I thought she wanted use

Of our truck, but she asked

Only for advice on how

To get her three bags

Of clothing away from the building.

There are answers to this question,

But not answers to the question

Of suicide, how her daughter

Did not hang herself, but was

Allowed to die. Sexual abuse

Eats into a person, and her daughter

At thirteen knew this well—

not once, but often. The police satisfied

With suicide, but not us

And we found the older man,

A relative of her husband,

Who raped Rhonda’s daughter

Until she could not take it anymore.

It was he who put the noose

Around her neck and shut the door

Silencing her and her accusations

Forever. Minimum wage jobs

And too much self medication

Changes one parent and another.

They did not insist the police

Do their job. They went along

With suicide, dissolved into heroin.

..

Michael 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, The Pacific Review, Poetrysuperhighway.com and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including The Shooting Gallery (Samidat Press, 1987), Poems from the Body Bag (Ommation Press, 1988), A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), What Stone Is (Fractal Edge Press, 2005), I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011) and Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012). He is the editor ofFirst Poems from Viet Nam (2011). Brownstein taught elementary school in Chicago (he is now retired), but he continues to study authentic African instruments, conducts grant-writing workshops for educators, designs websites 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.  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, The Pacific Review, Poetrysuperhighway.com and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including The Shooting Gallery (Samidat Press, 1987), Poems from the Body Bag (Ommation Press, 1988), A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), What Stone Is (Fractal Edge Press, 2005), I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011) and Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012). He is the editor ofFirst Poems from Viet Nam (2011). Brownstein taught elementary school in Chicago (he is now retired), but he continues to study authentic African instruments, conducts grant-writing workshops for educators, designs websites 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.