Heat a bombed-hell
and you’re carrying the weight of a child
after his leg vanished
when he came upon a landmine.
First the sweat evaporates into nothing,
the skin contours to the sun:
Before you, a fresh water beach,
muscles cramping, you want to lie in the sand,
but first you need to plunge into water.
There is no beach, no fresh water,
only the red liquid of conflict,
too much collateral damage.
The boy’s bone stabs into your arm.
Heat, too, has weight.
You need the beach, fresh water.
You need to shake your head clear of sunlight.
to close your eyes to dizziness.
If you put the object down,
where will that leave you? Where will you be?
How much further to a safe place?
Your lips lipsticked with dust and death.
The boy is still breathing,
but you, your heart races.
the temperature over a hundred,
humidity pushing to a hundred ten.
The war has been over for years.
The object you carry is yourself.
First published in H.E.A.R.T.
Bio: Michael H. Brownstein is on the roof of his old house, the roof in serious disrepair, and he walks on it as if he’s on a boardwalk – a squirrel falls through where he just stood – what is left to do but go to all fours, tread carefully until he’s on safe ground, call the roofers (he can’t fix this), and write a poem.
He’s walking across a great field, firecrackers exploding. He swats away at dozens of mosquitoes. Near where he teaches, the security guard tackles him and points out a sniper who has been shooting at him as he crossed. There is nothing else to do but conduct a poetry workshop in his algebra class.
He goes camping, and a rattlesnake crawls into his sleeping bag. Prayer and poetry – they really do go together.
On and on. Take a break. Write a poem.