Poetry from Michael Brownstein

TO A PLACE TO SEE VOLCANOES EXPLODE
After we landed
Montserrat floated into the sky
Mountain chicken, goat milk, goat water,
Black sand lines on the beach:
Look, I shouted, the volcano
Throws more smoke into the air
Coloring the trade winds grayish gray.
She answered, dust masks, oxygen masks,
Quick, buy me something to keep
The dust out of my hair.
Everywhere goats and sheep,
Lemons and lime, a great number of potatoes,
And once a week a boat rose to the occasion
From the Dominican Republic
Full of fresh fish and more fresh fish.
When the volcano erupted one night,
We went to the veranda to listen
To the marching of the debris
Coming toward us in the dark.
Morning, everything covered with ash:
Look, she shouted, this stuff is everywhere.
It’s on the chairs and the floor
And in the kitchen sink.
I answered, brooms and dustpans,
Mops and water. Where are the rags?
We left a week later, our gums bleeding,
A lack of vitamin C,
A lack of calcium, a lack of air.
a temperament of temperature,
frostbitten,
hard spackled.
the disease of frigidity and flu.
PINE RIDGE, SOUTH DAKOTA
We drove past signs of no sense–
abbreviations, foreplay,
a whitening of sky and badland.
crossword puzzles in buffalo grass
spirit walkers in small boxes–
the land chalk white and hungry
passing food and necessities,
fry bread and chilies, through windows.
All around us we heard the call
for a wall of water, a flood of evil,
a county ransacked by drunks and beer
We were heading home.
They were already there.
DAWN AND I’M ON THE BALCONY OF THE GUESTHOUSE, VIET NAM
When the first grand winter storm falls late autumn,
the flowers already put away, the summer hens hidden
and the gecko bird deep into her tree.
dawn, a pink welt, a red bruise, a strain of color.
The sun cannot find its way—
rooster relishes this time of day, but he, too,
sees only scars across the sky,
a dirty snow white sky, the trees ablaze,
the ground a ream of freshly minted paper.
Who among us cannot come into this day in awe—
the teal bug? The cicada? The river rat?
Yet dawn remains hidden, the sky an almost blue,
two willow tree clouds in the distance.

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