Thursday, April 4, 2013

Three Poems by Michael H. Brownstein

They tell me how jail cells cleanse the soul,
How hard nipples of silicon implanted breasts have a quality of egg yolk,
The sky a burden of sweat and peroxide,
How window casements shake with a current in rain.
I am a lonely old man who cannot remember the past—
Yet I know the honey locust has thorns sharp enough to break skin
And fruit from the persimmon tree will stop an eye from twitching.
How much of anything is true enough?
I raise my hands high over my head and bend back my neck.
Muscles pull at my calves and force my feet to their toes.
Punishment is always harder on the one punishing,
The crime between her legs is silk and rose blossoms and the soft fabric of terrycloth.
They explain the way an accident can happen and how something done on purpose can
be an accident, too.
Rain washes away stains, bad breath, easy smells sweet as sweet oil easing the tension of
mucous caught in the ear.
They tell me how the autistic distinguish darkness from danger, how the whole
distinguish a blemish from a scar.
When morning comes, they will tell me more secrets.
They will allow the rain to continue to fall.
Some of them will not be able to look me in the eyes.
I can tell them how silicon implants are like rocks behind felt.
I can tell them how missiles are made of flesh
I might even explain the motion necessary to break through the initial skin between legs.
Rain holds magic. Alone, it offers me a chance to sleep.
Do you know how your head is a mumble of thought
and the devil pushes its way to the front of the line?
No, not that devil.
Hell is frigid temperatures and gonorrhea,
everything plaid and self-compacted,
your worst pet peeve sitting in the desk to your left
and someone very disturbed angry at your right.
You are, after all, a pet peeve too.
So where is the geography for heaven?
In the room where the suicide bomber rapes his virgins?
The home of fundamentalists unable to identify gray?
Nothing smells worse than a hospital corridor.
A gentleness in the lavender of touch,
Soft against another, sheets
Organically blue cool and full of clouds.
One day Cupid wakes to find his arrows stolen
Enters earth on footed wings.
Angry and puzzled, he finds them
In a park near a grove scattered and dull,
One shaft broken. In the trees he hears joy,
Good wine, beauty, a whisper of lips.
How trite. One lover fingering the palm of another,
A message so secret everyone knows its depth.
Touch comes in color, it’s that easy.
Cupid leaves with everything he has lost
Bits of his anger clinging to the grass
Flowering into large bosoms of rose,
Rosemary, lilies of the field, golden tulips,
A naturalness of water falling from a ledge,
Warm and comforting, trite like a French kiss.
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, 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), I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011) and Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).

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