Sometimes she wakes to war
thinking flares of thunder, echoes of lightning,
a grand thunderstorm rattling her windows,
a hurricane, wind swept and damp with sand
violent like the breaking of oyster shells under foot,
an earthquake and the wrinkling of mortar,
collision of brick, the heavy breathing of a survivor.
Then she remembers who she is.
Sometimes her hair became a nest of mosquitoes
and fluid from her eyes semen. Her lips were exactly
imperfect.When her eyes were green, she rubbed her left earlobe.
When they were brown, she curled her hands in her lap.
Sometimes the battle would go on for more than a week.
Other times it ended as quickly as a jet flying overhead.
She learned how to eat weeds and sauerkraut,
soup from edible leaves hanging on trees.
Thunder rolled in thick bolts of light,
hurricanes flung glass and bits of bark,
earthquakes went on and on, the sidewalks and street
slow motion partners in dance.
Sometimes she would sit up in bed
pause before thinking and remember why she was.
It never mattered who or what or how.
Sometimes the act of waking was the only thing she needed.
A Festivity of Leadership Because Silence...
All right, leader of the sand. All right, he who eats his followers.
All right, Catherine of the wooden raft with wheels and, all right,
Cleo of the heavy carpet and its intrigue in court. Darkness is not
night falling over us mid day clouds roiling in, electricity,
unease. All right, the misuse of power, blood lusts and scars,
the cutting away of limbs. All right everyone
who cannot contain the promise of their years, all right
all of you with no memory of money and all right
those of you who do. All right avengers of blood, soothsayers
basking in its texture, its taste, the way it feel between fingers,
phlegm and sticky. All right, you who are jealous of shadows,
you who have jealous breath. When the sky wakens to the color
of leaf, the ground littered with autumn, when the sky wakens
to the lines in clouds, the wind calm, the water calm,
when the sky wakens to a pause in the noise of the living, the predators
asleep, when the sky wakens and everything has ended,
a brake in men, a disturbance of depth and fiction, the collapse
of what is allowed (and what is not). All right, enough
has been said—and we continue—one bloody festival, then another,
a feast for the grand birds, another for the grand maggot.
On the Eighth Day
The eighth day, well rested, the miracle of universe complete,
the dark dung of darkness and sad light cleansed and organized.
Forgive us our moment when all prayer becomes short stories,
shell shock inability to listen to vibrations of silence,
people wading into the brakes of words--
the sharp shark shard of vowels and their choking curves,
consonants threading into a grand forest choir
each stitch a slip in the wrong direction.
Forgive us our greed and simple idiocy, our lists,
our tears in flesh and psyche, our anger, our augers,
our metal plates, forgive us for taking the deeds
holding the great desk together, forgive us the robberies
of paper and light, of organization and disbelief,
forgive us for stealing purity in psalm and purity in image,
forgive us for every nine day week after week,
forgive us for forgetting where we are, where we come from,
where we belong, forgive us the miracle of rest.
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 Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), The Possibility of Sky and Hell: From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013) and The Katy Trail, Mid-Missouri, 100 Degrees Outside and Other Poems (Kind of Hurricane Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).