AN ISLAND ABOVE THE OCEAN
After we landed
Montserrat floated into the sky
Mountain chicken, 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 march of debris.
Morning, everything covered with ash:
Look, she shouted, this stuff is everywhere.
It’s on the chairs and the floor,
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 .
Temperament of temperature.
NEAR THE MARKET ON THE BRIDGE OVER THE HOLY LAKE OF WISDOM
Her face, sun sweat,
Solar heat, a pause to yellow,
The bridge of monks and water lilies,
A marketplace of chom choms,
Fist sized watermelon and bitter melon,
Five varieties of banana,
Quantities of rice and tomato,
Politeness and gratitude:
Why are you here? the princess asked
Her face sunlight now
And a coloring of monsoon rains.
Before we could answer,
She took us to the garden
Of dragon fruit and Mang Cut,
Everything lemon grass and lychee.
WHITE CLAY ON THE BORDER OF NEBRASKA AND SOUTH DAKOTA
We drove past signs of no sense–
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.
Michael H. Brownstein work has appeared in The Café Review, American
Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry,
The Pacific Review, poetrysuhighway.com and others.
He has nine poetry chapbooks including A Period of Trees (Snark Press,
2004), Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), and
The Possibility of Sky and Hell (White Knuckle Press, 2013). He is the
editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).