Three Poems

Michael H. Brownstein


The first nap we took was long and comforting.
You sleep when you can, the noise bad enough,
but I can no longer stand silence.
You learn to eat when you can,
lift the fork to your mouth, your buddy gasps,
lifts backwards, a rose at his forehead,
and you think about physics, the laws of motion,
finish that one swallow, the air smoke and yelling,
the seed of a fruit, a sniper, a puff of dirt.
Later, you help others carry your buddy away.
There is never time to finish eating.
There is never time to take a nap.

This is the weather of crazy men,
word purists, electric company shareholders:
Hell is not fire and steam, blisters and melting skin–
hell is the weather where everything is not enough,
clothing in layers, fireplaces roaring,
inadequacies with the furnace. Every year
we are the madman who live here.
Every year we remain.


My wife was born at the lead of a bridge,
its moat turbulent and full of snakes.

Maidens did not speak to knights.
They had to find light on their own.

Our men not Roman Gods, nor Norse.
They knew the code to the city.

When my daughter arrived, wild flowers
blue and pink leafed, sprouted at the road.

My son studied the naturalness of his world,
slipped into gardens for hours.

If we have bread, if the water is drinkable,
if the castle is no longer full,

my children, my wife, my knights,my maidens,
some years harder than others,

some centuries a hundred year war,
some decades an African Renaissance,

some years years of flower and peace,
flour and trees glowing with leaf.


And so I forgot water, too, has breath
and purple weeds can lift their eyes from the mud first light.
cloud fire covers light with admonition and compliance.
I have forgotten them too, their pattern of speech,
their bright fingers tearing the sky apart.
There is much to forget and much to remember.
In time I will forget this also: the great Missouri
breaking the boundary, its belly pregnant,
its strength a pulse, current, a spread of hands–
rising, rising, rising–its fingers stretching from fist
into mud and design, debris and satisfaction.


Michael H. Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses. He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011). His passion is Project Agent Orange: Project Agent Orange

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