Poetry: Michael H. Brownstein
Reign of Ash
This is one of those nights you never dream,
The sky not on fire, but burning.
Falling ash and ember. An orange cantaloupe moon. Nosebleeds and diarrhea.
The volcano dome collapses, a sudden cloud, and night is hyphenated.
A rain of black ash
And all of the stars drop from sight in bundles.
The people come out of their homes and stand on their verandas,
A people of the long knife and volcanic dust,
Skin hard with ash, hair ash-poisoned, ash sweat stew.
Spirits roam the roads and pathways, find life in the old ones,
The village’s simple center crowded into the hill,
And welcome the voices from the dead.
Later island rescue comes with breathing masks,
A church opens its doors early to pray for rain,
Goats come from their hiding places to shake themselves free.
All day dust clouds landscape and window.
The mountain sacrifices itself to lahars and spirit people.
Everything, every leaf, every iguana, every ghost wrapped in ash.
The Caterpillar Wars
We climb the trail of hard tack and belligerence,
one foothold at a time, one handhold at a time,
our bodies pressed against rock and limb,
the ridge a door opens to palisades
rich with water and droppings, carnivores and calcite,
a knife reserved for some of us.
We are on our way to the caterpillar wars,
night long with sleep, day too hot for breathing.
The rock climber knows the inside of rock,
the footpath earth, the broken rowboat
its gravel grave, all of the grass the grass beside it.
Please. Take this staff.
Things are less angry here,
less full of quantity, of a tenor in voice.
Soon we will be between thick fences,
then forests, then where the horse hunters live
and everything is not always good.
Here is the town of unequal opportunity
and the river running through it little more than sink water
overrunning its basin drop by drop.
You know, everything in the world begins
as a puddle and then turns to mud.
This is How Shadows Lay Across Cement Blocks or How Mist Can Block the Sun
How he walked away had everything to do with everything.
How she held her breath without knowing as he left,
the view through the window off color somehow, more green than blue,
a haze over the mountains, the door closing,
the sudden nervous smell of concern and worry.
One day everything will be made clear,
a bird perhaps, a dog, maybe a giraffe.
The landscape will no longer be layered.
The light before the thunderstorm will make her brave.
Her hands will cease to open and close when she thinks of him.
She will know he was not the right tune hummed in the night lights.
She will understand the hypothesis did not favor the result.