beauty in the firecrackers fallling in the distance,
the sound of earth baking, debris folding into itself,
clothing aflame, air on fire, light red and burning,
the trees swallow smoke, their limbs cackling like hoarse chickens,
the chickens scattering from the firefight,
bullets catching sleeping children behind walls of sheetrock,
blood the color of dakrness within moonlight,
bombs falling into homes,
a mountain village a landscape of flares and somehow a gorgeous angel
dressed in tatters and silk, her face smooth and full of fruit,
stretches out her hands to catch
whatever falls from the skies and in the morning,
night's beauty a black shadow,
more angels and us running from what once was whole,
but now broken bones and gashed flesh.
THE BREWERY ON ASH STREET
The food poisoning was much more intense the second time and the beer utterly devoid of flavor, but the sun was shining, it was a Saturday afternoon, and he felt lazy so he called his three buddies and asked if they would like to go to the restaurant of vomiting a third time, heck, it’s always been three strikes, you know, and we’re only on strike two. He gathered everyone up and drove to the place on Ash, found a parking space next door, walked in through the front door and exited onto the patio where they sat under an expansive shade umbrella.
Outside the food poisoning truck was making its daily delivery of processed goods, the beer maestro talked to a few employees and told them he how he wasn’t in any hurry to clean the great beer tanks, they could wait another month at least, and the patio waitress leaned against the bar and totally ignored them. Last night she had had another argument with her boyfriend and she was still seething over it. They could wait, she mumbled under her breath. After all, it was Saturday, what else did they have to do, and they were men. When three women took the table next to them, she rushed over, offering them menus and within minutes had their orders in to the cook.
The four men were not in a hurry. They did not notice the diarrhea truck, they did not hear the conversation of the beer maestro, and they ignored the waitress as hard as she ignored them. They didn’t really want to eat any food or drink any more bad beer. They remembered the throwing-up in the car and on the street and even now, on the patio, they felt queasy and somewhat hypochondriac remembering.
After awhile she came to their table and they told her they needed menus. Fifteen minutes later she bought them over. They looked over the menus and read the description of the last vomit inciting food and he thought how should this story end. I’ll write the ending when I get home later. Everything has an ending. Even this. Reading the menu brought on nausea. They left thirty minutes later, left a dollar tip on the table, and took the menus with them. Perhaps this is how the story ends, he thought, as he drove everyone home.
THE WAY PEARLS ARE FORMED
The light of wisdom, a pearl,
moonlight slipping onto a salt water pond, oysters
freeing themselves from stony homes
to float free within underwater wind
until they reach the surface to swallow the moon.
There are seams within a clasp of shell,
burrs and pebbles, unjust injury,
but only the burn of moonlight swallowed whole
begins the covering of internal wound
until the bright luster forms internal moons.
I do not know who I am, but I do know
I am not the red winged blackbird scaling the tall grass near the road
or the snail slug attached to the undergrowth of a brick.
Nor am I the rat dependent on a prisoner for care.
Hard and fast I find myself, a garden gate swinging open unexpectedly,
no wind through the leaves, no breeze across the dandelions, not even breath.
Can I be the lover's kiss? The soft caress? One finger focused on another's palm?
The brand new lens allowing the brilliance of brand new sight?
Perhaps I am only the apology, the insecure sorry bent and breaking,
the I-have-already-apologized-for-that--can't you let it go?--
the red winged blackbird hoping to life its body above the reeds,
the snail slug married to its one brick terrain,
the rat entering the concrete floor hungry, hopeful, anticipating home.
Michael H. Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses. His work has appeared in The Cafe 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), and I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet NamI (2011).