Saturday, July 14, 2012

Three Poems by Michael H. Brownstein


July opened into my life
sweat stained
with a low slanged sky
full of curse words and abominations,
and the heart of a beaver.

Why the heart of a beaver?
someone in the back of the bus asked.

Why not?
They are brave warriors able to use what they have.

It doesn’t matter,
the voice from the back answers.

But it does.
In this poem the beaver is aging,
his heart near collapse.
There is a trap outside his dam.
His teeth are decaying.
His tail is frayed and graying.
Another beaver lusts for his wife.

But this poem isn’t about a beaver’s heart
or the low slanged sky of curse words and abominations.
This is a love poem on sweat stains
and I’m at the edge of the page,
my skin raw with the redness of sunlight
so I guess this poem is not about that either.
All my life
the low stung tree on the hilltop,
the river birch near the stream,
one mulberry tree in a field.
White branches no longer able to hold a weight in leaf,
the birch dips its roots into water,
the mulberry plans its invasion.
The path lacks shade,
the path lacks humor,
honor a seed hibernating into soil until its time of need.
Three days of hiking with only bottled water
is penance enough for one lifetime,
the path littered with opera and breath-beats,
the sarcasm of the bullfrog, the yelp of the red fox.
Every night enough stars shoot across the sky
to grant every wish for a hundred years of wishing,
every aspiration, every melody, every quarter note.
Sweat streams puddle down the corridor of my back,
my ears open into mouths, my tongue catches sound on its tip.
Near the end of the trail, resting, every goodness within me,
within my back, my hands, my blistered feet, my muscles,
everything thyme, sage, peach water, an essence of Aradia. (light)
In the end I did not enter the shiny box of darkness.
I dyed my hair instead, removed my teeth,
fell back in love.
That was what was written on the exit sign
at the beginning of the trail
leading back home.
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, and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks includingThe 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), and I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).
Brownstein taught elementary school in Chicago’s inner city (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.

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