Casualties of the American War
-- for Diana, still alive, a nurse in the Viet Nam War, Agent Orange poisoning
She taught me once how to lean into shadows,
trace the voice in the echo
taste the scent within the seed of blossom.
She taught me later how to sing praise phrases,
move to the colors within white,
pause to the movement of thyme near water.
And when we were ties to each other miles apart,
she explained the beauty of pain,
the delivery of silence when silence was too loud
I called to her this evening, her phones disconnected,
entered the realm of my computer, and spoke to her
through the language Solitaire played three rows at a time
I won twice, knew she was OK, waited.
She called exactly one hour later, everything correct:
shadow, echo, seed, phrase, color, silence within pause
a lack of pain.
Stroke and Ego
She attempts to rise in the river, but she is rust,
The banks neither steep nor slippery, only ladders of air.
Gravity is not a toehold.
She struggles to open her eyes,
Her body a book left outside soaking itself dry.
She is heat thunder in summertime.
A feeding tube down her throat, than her nose,
Finally an installation piece at her stomach.
Hysterical vomit on sheets, on the floor.
How can we live this life we live
When the one man we gave our life to
Tells us he is not coming back to visit?
Earthquake hollow, earthquakes of muscle,
A sudden avalanche of biting insects.
The TV drones on and on, visitors extinct.
You can hear, but not see,
You can rest, but never fully wake.
He will get over himself, you imagine,
But he does not, day after day,
So you find yourself playing with your fists alone.
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 (Samsidat 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), Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), The Possibility of Sky and Hell: From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013), and The Katy Trail, Mid-Missouri, 100 Degrees Outside and Other Poems (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).