Sunday, December 17, 2023

Measures of Darkness

  —Poetry by Michael H. Brownstein, 
Jefferson City, MO
—Public Domain Photos Courtesy
of Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA

the smeared blush of red lipstick
settling dust at dusk,

light shades of pink
from clouds,

too quickly smudges of charcoal
everything into darkness

moonlight begins its glow
as stars cut holes in the sky

and hundreds of chimney sweeps
themselves into the sky

I'm a little destitute and a little scarred,
the angle of my breath
strong-willed but not willing
as if a simple sentence
can be exhausting.

In the yard beyond pandemics,
a mixing of dogs and leaf,
a fallen tree limb,
a bent metal fence.
From my apex on the porch I tried to build,
everything is beyond me,
everything is before me.
I can tell every secret
and I know where the secrets are hidden,
but still
the shadow within the blue sky,
bright and handsome,
is not there at all,
a picture before me
nonplussed and gentle.
If I could open
my chest to expose
my inner being,
would blood, salt, bone or prayer
pour out?
Heal the skin.
Allow the body to do the body's work.
He recognized her by the stain in the metal.
He remembered her by the price of a gallon of
When she put her long piano fingers on his left
he recalled the one song she recorded,
her soft voice, her kora, her lute, her mandolin,
the electric guitar she made by hand.
Yes, what they claim is true:
When they walked past the bakery of hot, fresh
the scent bubbled up within him and he tasted her,
the steaming crust of pastry and skin, the way day
so many years ago, sitting outside with her,
the sky a regal blue, clean without congestion.
What happened to me? he asked.
What happened to us? she answered.
Let's get a scone, he said gladdened by her
and remember everything good in this world.
Good, she said, and they entered the bakery
to heaven.
I will wait for the sun to make its way up the stairs.
Then I'll enter the place of underachievers, liars
and thieves.
Where else can defiance be so simple?
Once she lied about water.
Twice she lied about silk.
No one waited for a third time.
The house of shadow glows with a light within
Lost value finds itself on its shelves among the
many books.
When the moon escapes its cage, this is where it
comes for safekeeping.


The lyrics of the throat singer
syphoning the grasp of cloud
away from clammy skin, souled
ice, sweetgum and bloodroot.
Is it not enough to build a pyramid,
a kiosk, an inverted dream catcher,
a nightmare of melody and psalm?
Nothing lasts now or later—
nothing is whole at the end of its time
and nothing is nothing where it exists.
No, this is not how the prayer song ends,
it has no ending, the kora playing on,
the shakaree, the great talking drum.
A performer gets ready to leave the stage,
but he cannot, the applause transfixing,
the people standing at attention,
his shirt attaches itself to his scars
and when he tries to pull away,
he remains a statue of what might have been
if he had been allowed to enter the stage
during a time of different footprints.


Hamas is not allowed to sit at the table
except for the one reserved for cowards,
liars, thieves and the evil in murderers.
Our table is set for a meeting between
the good people of Palestine, the good
people of Israel. Both people deserve
a right to strive and thrive, pray to their God
for peace. Does Hamas not know
their holy book? Do they not know
the Jewish prophets Abraham, Isaac,
and Moses are in their book? Do they
not know there is a place for Jesus?
Ignorance, inability to comprehend
their holy book and stone stupidity
is not a reason to kill, wound, and destroy.
Bring on the good people of both lands.
Together we can take away their power.
May peace regain its foothold.


I need to stretch my breath a minute or more,
let the broken branch of rain fall away from me,
the filament of hail move forward a Fionn's step or
gather my dogs from their hiding places in the stone:
I will be back soon to be with you.

The anvil sparks, the great hammer falls,
the welder flings its fire, the plasma cutter breaks

The aquifer fills itself until it can no longer eat,
waters sprawl over the Missouri banks,
the flood of retribution the revival of our lacking—
then the color of sky colors the clouds and some
we do not need the myth of rainbow, just peace,
just love,

you, always you, our small house, our smaller
my hope for you, safe at the end of this storm.

Today’s LittleNip(s):

sprinkles its shadow
across the horizon

* * *

When so much is hard
and everything's colored gray,
grow roses in your heart.

—Michael H. Brownstein


—Medusa, with thanks to Michael Brownstein for dropping by the Kitchen with his fine poetry today!
 “…grow roses in your heart.”

A reminder that Sac. Poetry Center
will present back-to-back readings
by Chuck Dalldorf this afternoon
in Sacramento (4pm and 6pm),
for his new book,
Notes from the Green Man;
and Lara Gularte and Frank Gioia
will be featured at Storytelling Sundays
at the Green Room in Placerville, 4pm.
For info about these and other
upcoming poetry happenings in
Northern California and otherwheres,
click on
in the links at the top of this page—
and keep an eye on this link and on
the daily Kitchen for happenings
that might pop up
—or get changed!—
 during the week.

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LittleSnake’s Glimmer of Hope
(A cookie from the Kitchen for today)

sudden magic!
passing deer
remind us
what matters