#Mountains: Reign of Ash by Michael H. Brownstein

12992_Hawaii-Volcanoes-National-Park-web

This is one of those nights you never dream,
The sky not on fire, but burning.
Falling ash and ember. An orange cantaloupe moon. Nosebleeds. Diarrhea.

The volcano dome collapses, a sudden cloud, and night is hyphenated.
A rain of black ash
And all of the stars drop from sight in bundles.

The people come out of their homes and stand on their verandas,
A people of the long knife and volcanic dust,
Skin hard with ash, hair ash-poisoned, ash sweat stew.

Spirits roam the roads and pathways, find life in the old ones,
The village’s simple center crowded into the hill,
Welcomes the voices of the dead.

Later island rescue comes with breathing masks,
A church opens its doors early to pray for rain,
Goats come from their hiding places to shake themselves free.

All day dust clouds landscape and window.
The mountain sacrifices itself to lahars and spirit people.
Everything, every leaf, every iguana, every ghost wrapped in ash.

 

 

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.

# Mountains: High on Her Mountain, the Witch Witch Warms Herself by Michael H. Brownstein

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The witch witch wakes hungry
ice on her breath,
clouds in her hair,
underwear gray and red,
warts sprawled across her arms.
There are always people who are meant to harm you.
The witch witch is not one of them.
She can dig a shallow grave,
pray over a cat at play with a mouse,
squash a scorpion between thumb and forefinger.
The witch witch sees the dormant volcano
through an opening in her wall,
the sudden rise of steam, the push
of ash like wet sand,
the beautiful collapse of the dome.
She walks onto her veranda,
folds her small hands into a smile,
and watches the mountain catch fire.

 

 

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.

 

Watercolor by Jenn Zed

#Immigration: The Wall in Question by Michael H. Brownstein

Algodones_sand-dune-fence

A wall built on tumbleweed, spit, grasshopper larvae
Help us, people–help us understand—help us visualize–
I understand none of this. Is there a way I can know?
A wall built of bone marrow mortar and dog piss,
Violent thought and disconnection, the rapid fire
Of bullet cored brick. Help us understand where
This river enters the realm, where this river empties
Its blood to the valleys of snow, how the impact
Of dour men with raccoon hat hair suck away the core.

First published in New Verse.

 

 

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.

 

Photograph by United States Department of Homeland Security.

 

 

#Immigration: Collateral Damage by Michael H. Brownstein

Collateral Damage Michael H Brownstein 1

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.
Mid-Missouri, July,
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.

Collateral Damage 2 Brownstein

 

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.

My Brother, a Broken Violin String, in Four Parts by Michael H. Brownstein

The tension in my brother a router bit
slipping away from its collet and shaft
tormenting all of us into worry and expense
as if money is the only matter between us,
the only act of love, of caring, of speech,
friction and the noise of friction, metal
and the noise of metal, wood and the noise
of wood, empathy and the basic spread
of impious injustice, a total lack of power.

He could have been a hurricane,
but when the storm surge came,
he backed away rather than move forward.
In the tension of rain and wind,
he howls, scratches, screams
and then opens the sky to quiet,
but he cannot sleep, he cannot dream.
What if my brother could take
his hurricane and run into another?

The Atlantic is heavy with warmth,
sun, wind, hollows, thick humidity,
even the moon a lampshade of light.
My brother, my brother, he sighs,
worries, asks the same question,
retreats within the same answer,
stumbles into rusted out landscapes,
tension and rusty bits of machinery,
decisions best made by someone else.

My brother hides in plain sight
near the frontier of Israel and Palestine,
a checkpoint, soldiers with automatic weapons,
armored vehicles, more automatic weapons,
summer heat, winter heat, shade and shallow imprints,
barbed wire and rusting barbed wire, water
caught in sand, wind caught in sand, tensions
a category three soon to grow into a five,
my brother, broken bits, maybe a hurricane.

 

 

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 A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004) and Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), The Possibility of Sky and Hell: From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).

 

Detail of After the Hurricane by Winslow Homer.

A Field of Prayer by Michael H. Brownstein

This is the word of my mistaking:
Hike with me through this field of prayer,
through mudflats and iron foot,
the eulogy deep and dried passion fruit,
the salt of columbine, a terrain of frenzy,
lacewing and the yellow mollies of spring,
milk and milk thistle, a porcelain of words.

Hike with me past the girth of oak,
the prayer tree of Cambodia, the blue iris,
purple passion, the field of glories
behind the back forty no one touches.
Share with me wild onion, mint,
dandelion leaves and acorn meat,
the edible leaves of the Acacia.

The storm will pass. The forest will replenish.
Rivers will not run dry. Nor will they shrink.
Hike with me five years from now. Share
my bounty anytime. The eulogy premature,
prayer alive in flower and grass, blossom
and honey bee, a porcelain of words.
and a strength in who we really are.

 

 

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 A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004) and Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), The Possibility of Sky and Hell: From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).

 

Photograph, Field of Thistle, by John Newcomb.

Compassion Moves the World by Michael H. Brownstein

After the sculpture Compassion Moves a World,  by Julie Rotblatt-Amrany

In the days that followed
The blue ink of sea broiled over

A child, a vulture, a lack of seed.
Everything spreading outward.

Wind whined into place and rained.
Sun spread its thick arms and stayed.

One person can make a world.
A strong wind can swim in acid and wake.

Water in turmoil thickening.
Hold on with all of your might.

The earth has not broken open yet.
The legs of the strong are stronger

Than the waves of the cloak of life.
We will come to cross this path,

We will make it across this continent,
We will find the child, the vulture, the seed.

We will change the shape of water.

compassion-moves-a-world full length

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 A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004) and Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), The Possibility of Sky and Hell: From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).