Saturday, April 27, 2024

Remaining Invisible

 —Poetry by Michael H. Brownstein,
Jefferson City, MO
—Photos Courtesy of Public Domain
(Jefferson City, MO, tornado, 11:40 PM,
May 22nd/23rd, 2019)

Two days later you navigate the ruts in the road,
fallen trees, torn roofs, swinging wires, broken
to a house at the end of a broken street and a
gravel path,
up the steps of a porch still strong, an electric box
no windows broken, branches and car parts a picture
When the door opens, heat rushes outside. A frail
at the door. Yes, she says. On her kitchen table,
a melting ice-cream carton, bags of leaking vegetables,
the soiled odor of spoiled milk. Come in, she says.
No electricity, a water pipe maligned, gas turned off.
All around you, every house has a sign—you can
stay or
you must vacate. There is no sign on her front door.
You’re the first people I’ve seen in three days. Is it
We have food, you tell her, and water. One of us
can remain with you. We’ll see if we cannot get
you help.
And then the wind of the tornado slips from her.
Her body rocks, then shivers, one hand goes to her
Sorry, she says, I can’t help it and she cries and cries.


I always thought you would outlive me
Lifting heavy boxes past the age of seventy,
Carrying them fifty feet without rest
As if you were white water riding a crest
Of a wave digging talons into sand—
You were always the one I could count on to stand
As my corner man in the boxing ring
Or tell me a lie when I was asked to sing
At this function or that, knowing my throat
Was stale bread, textured oat.
Yet now I find you tied to machines
Calculating strokes of your heart on reams
Cascading past the nurse’s station in intensive care.
I left work early wondering if I dare
Peek in to see you beyond the open door.
You smile, plant heavy white stocking feet to the
I’m OK, you tell me, my heart was racing,
And you move your finger to your chest as if tracing
A child’s picture shaded with red
An intricate design with a loose thread.


Now that everything is over,
The speed bump, the crack in concrete,
A chapbook by Steven Schletor
Open to pages four and five
Waving its torn hands in the wind.
When it rains, when it snows,
After the hail, after the heavy sleet,
After the weather breaks to a drizzle,
The staples bend and rust and break,
But this is nothing. Water has a way
With cardboard and paper, rock
And sandstone, love and ink.

and now I look through my list of poems,
a silence so concise it swells into me.
Is there no room for hunger or shame,
the loose breath of the injured fawn
leaning terribly against the injured oak,
its new buds wet with the last blossoms of snow?
Somewhere children are flying kites. It is spring.
Somewhere children are flying kites. It is fall.
The homeless man from the corner tells me
water is the hardest thing to find in the city.
“Can you spare fifty cents? I need a can of cola.”
His teeth are like mine, coated and spoiled.
I give him a quarter and he buys a bag of chips.


This is not who I love. This is not what I love.
Love is a god-stone, thick and sometimes valuable,
strong-wristed, one arc of a finger

Love has the weight of god, the weight of Eve’s
Lilith, and vomit, water mixed with salt,
A mottled permutation of tear-stained skin,
pink and ordinary, thinly veined and iridescent,
the sigh of sun arriving into day’s orange blue.

This is who I love. This is what I love.
An evening of chimneys and steam,
a cloud of feather and frog,
green eyes,


Michael H. Brownstein is on the roof of his old house, the roof in serious disrepair, and he walks on it as if he’s on a boardwalk—a squirrel falls through where he just stood—what is left to do but go to all fours, tread carefully until he’s on safe ground, call the roofers (he can’t fix this), and write a poem.

He’s walking across a great field, firecrackers exploding. He swats away at dozens of mosquitoes. Near where he teaches, the security guard tackles him and points out a sniper who has been shooting at him as he crossed. There is nothing else to do but conduct a poetry workshop in his algebra class.

He goes camping, and a rattlesnake crawls into his sleeping bag. Prayer and poetry—they really do go together.

On and on. Take a break. Write a poem.


Today’s LittleNip:

Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.

—Percy Bysshe Shelley, from
A Defense of Poetry and Other Essays


—Medusa, thanking Michael Brownstein for his fine poetry today!
Check out this article from The Fulcrum, "Our campaigns need more poetry", which appeared in yesterday's Sacramento Bee: Raise your hand if you agree...
 Take a break. Write a poem…

(Best advice I’ve heard all week!)

A reminder that
Escritores Del Nuevo Sol presents
its Contra Banned reading tonight
at Sac. Poetry Center, 6pm.

For info about this and other
future 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.

Photos in this column can be enlarged by
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send poetry and/or photos and artwork
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Just remember:
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for poetry, of course!