Three Poems By Michael H. Brownstein

by: Michael H. Brownstein

These three poems by Michael Brownstein bring the reader to the limits of life, learning, and perception. Our place the cosmos, our place in our family story, our place in the flashing moments of the beautiful world…How do we navigated the multifarious narratives which we are part of, but which never fully encompass who we are?

CARNEADES OF THE WORD
            —And how many men I have seen in my time made stupid by rash
            avidity for learning! Carneades became so mad about it that he had
            no time left to take care of his hair and nails.
                                    Michel de Montaigne—
                                    “Of the Education of Children,” 1588
Carneades of the shadow.
Carneades of the whisper.
Carneades who could not blink his eyes following letters across a page.
Carneades held books close and stubborn
As if his greatest need was to understand the inside of a stone,
The workings of a six inch tooth washed up on the shore,
The breathing heart of the baby harp seal panting heavily away from others.
Carneades owned all of the books—
Alexander be damned—
His eyes, his ears, his huge sense of smell, unruly hair, broken fingernails—
He read past the moon hour, past the rising of the sun, past the closing of the baths,
Left important matters to his servants
And his servants lived well.
Carneades sits on the soft pillows in the corner of his library,
His lamp bright,
His glasses thick and bulky,
His hair unkempt and ragged,
His fingernails long enough to get in the way of turning a page.
Carneades reads.

 

DEATH ARRIVES SUDDENLY NEAR THE BED IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM

My father was born without an expiration date.
Nor was he offered an explicit warranty against defect.
One evening he arrived home to discover
free choice was no longer an option, passion a myth,
red food coloring an agent of kidney disease.

They say when you hear thunder,
someone passed successfully to the other side.
They say when you hear the glimmer of a bell,
someone transformed into an angel.
They say bury him with a gold coin tight within his fist,
the river’s swift and dangerous,
here there are too many monsters craving flesh.

My father did not outlive his usefulness.
He discovered, instead,
the burden of truth is too often a lie.

EXPLAIN IT TO ME IN COLOR

A pink thread of mist
whispers
in the horizon,
the sky a grand shiver
of katydids
sun lit green
and handsome.

Michael H. Brownstein 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).

1 Comment

  • Poets are far more important than the poetry they write. But if they must write, they should give us words that open our understanding of ourselves. Michael Brownstein piques my interest. Though I read very little poetry, I would read more of his work. It has great punch, a sneaky left hook that I know is coming but still I can’t get out of the way. Maybe I don’t want to.
    Ow!

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