michael brownstein


July opened into my life
sweat stained,
the low slanged sky
full of curse words and abominations,
the heart of a beaver,
and then:
a swamp of sun after a shade of breath,
the shelf of wind in disarray behind bolted doors
and when the rains came,
it was almost human outside

Skiing in the Graveyard

A warming of hands.
Snow near the top of the hill.
A brief hole in the glove at the thumb.
Forty degrees colder than ice.

The field a white mink,
skis waxed and fast, the sky pure,
each finger on each hand
in need of warning.

Listen: the sharp points of the ski poles
scar snow, tread into the frozen souls
buried near the surface.

Passion has its way with words,
its way with bone, its way with metal,
its way with the suede of hemp.

The Poet Disfigured by Her Editor

The picture on the back cover of her book
a field of derangement, a scarred fence,
eyes almond shaped like arsenic,
heavy shadowed specks of disorder.
She wrote a poem I misread as “Raft,”
but she is nowhere near water, as if color
and water, black and shaded, cannot mix.
Nor is she smiling, her face bent in profile
half lit, half disabled, half there,
half wondering where there is.
I may have misread the title of the poem,
but not the editor’s choice of cover photo–
his need to have her as a lover,
his need ignored, an obsession he preyed over,
the photo on the back cover of her book
not her choice, but his weapon of revenge,
disregarded, disquieting, out of place.

Michael H. Brownstein‘s work has appeared in The Café Review, Skidrow Penthouse, Hotel Amerika, Free Lunch, and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including The Shooting Gallery (Samidat Press, 1987), A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), and I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011). He taught elementary school in Chicago’s inner city (now retired), but continues to study authentic African instruments, designs websites, and records performance and music pieces.