When insomnia has taken complete control of your restless legs and racing thoughts…

A Poem by Chris Butler

you know it’s far too late
when after constant commercials
for bootleg erectile dysfunction pills
and cures for balding heads,
all of which feature the incentives of
female models frolicking on sandy beaches,
and you reach the end of the broadcasting day,
watching a 4th of July fireworks spectacular
in tandem with the national anthem.

  

Kaos and the Rat Pack

Flash Fiction by Michael H. Brownstein

The two legged animal—at least I only see two feet (not four like my pals and me)—has divided us into a two rooms. He is one side and we are on the other. It’s not because we’re too loud though we do like to bark and howl when we hear sounds that interest us. It’s not because we play hard and rough and sometimes squeal. It may be because we always beg for food or to be petted. I can’t tell you why he divides the room. He just does.

But that’s not here nor there. What is here is my plan to break out of the room and then figure a way to get outside. I tell the rat pack watch and learn.When he opens the sliding door to get on our side, I make a run for him and he closes his legs so I can’t get by, but then he turns sideways at the last second and I’m in the other room. I bark a few barks and the rat pack barks a few barks and then we giggle back and forth and I bark again because he is opening the door and coming to my side and he’s heading to the door to the outside.

When he opens it, I make my move, and he almost catches me, but I slip past him and I’m outside. I can hear the adoring barks from the rat pack caught on their side of the room. I can also hear the large booming voice of our friend who feeds us and gives us water. He’s calling my name, but I’m outside and I’m not on a leash and I’m almost to the corner and now I’m at the corner and I’m turning so quickly, there is no way he can keep up and then–

Across the street from where I live is a giant graveyard. A spooky place. I never go day or night. Nor do the rat pack. And here is why:

THE GRAVEYARD DOGS!

My friend is calling me and I’m not looking and then I do look and I put on my speedy four paws skids because directly in front of me are THE GRAVEYARD DOGS! I turn as fast as I can and the race is on. They are right behind me.

I’m running as fast as I can, but it’s not good enough. I need my friend to have the door open so I can get inside before I become food for THE GRAVEYARD DOGS and here is why I like my friend so much. He knows exactly what to do. He reaches the door before me, opens and then slams it shut. I run to the window and watch them run to the door, pause, and then run back to the graveyard where they belong.

Can’t wait to tell the rat pack about the time I beat THE GRAVEYARD DOGS.

Fingernails

A Poem by Michael Estabrook

She’s sad I know but I don’t know what
to tell her to ease her anxiety we’re all in the same boat
just noticed my fingernails are dirty how
did that happen all I do with my hands is type in here
and work the remote so weird where did the damn dirt come from
there have been plagues in the past I tell her
all over the world and they have fizzled out eventually
this one will fizzle too just needs
a little more time.

The Set of Her Body

A Prose Poem by Michael H. Brownstein

I look at the set of her body, the style of range, the linoleum on the patio, the robin’s nest in the eave of the front porch, the wino sipping whiskey out of a glass bottle in a paper bag on the front stoop. She is afraid to go outside until he leaves. I go outside and sit next to him.
Inside the windows mirror self-satisfaction and overcast skies. Outside the sky is true blue and the sun bright white. He offers me the bottle and I decline. He pulls a broken pair of sunglasses out of his pocket and puts them on. “I feel cooler now,” he says and takes another drink.
When I go back inside, she has put on her pretty dress and is standing in the room she has named MY FANCY ROOM. The room is empty space with the exception of a rich thick handmade rug on one wall and another on the hardwood floor. I look at the set of her body. I reach for her waist. “You are in need of a tune-up,” I whisper, and she nods, yes, handing me her arm. I begin to tighten her strings.
Wouldn’t you know it is at that exact moment a car backfires down the street, a man shoots a stranger with a shotgun two blocks over, and suddenly there is the symphonic opera eclipse of sirens rushing to the just now explosion in the industrial part of town.
I sit against the wall and look at the set of her body. This is too much to carry in my head. The set of her body…the design of her dress…the broken strings in my hand…

Hilton

A Poem by Michael Estabrook

Suddenly a rat a thick gray thing darted
from the corner of the gutter up to the peak of the roof
disappearing beneath a shingle
into the attic space above the bedroom.
“Did you see that” she squealed.
“Damn there’s a second one” he exclaimed.
“I’ll set out the traps tomorrow.”
And I’m thinking that plan would not satisfy my wife.
She’d sleep out in the car
or more likely in the Hilton across town
rather than in that bedroom.

Ragdoll

A Poem by Michael Estabrook

Suddenly a hawk drops out of the sky onto
the baby rabbit nibbling grass in our backyard
its talons digging in as it tosses
the baby about like a proverbial ragdoll.

I run downstairs and out the back door yelling
scaring the startled hawk back up
into the trees leaving his limp prey behind.

I hold the little creature in my hands
so helpless, so soft and warm, but no blood
nothing broken that I can tell
and he’s breathing but barely.

I place him carefully beneath some vines
and weeds when suddenly
he bursts into the underbrush – gone in a flash!

Must’ve been in shock or playing dead
but now back where he belongs.
Hope he learned his lesson and stays out of sight
from the demon beast spying from the treetops.

Muse

A Poem Letter by Michael Estabrook

But seriously, do I have to write a poem every time

there’s a space in my day: at the doctor’s office, the airport, the DMV,

during the kids’ basketball practice, soccer and softball.

Pull out my notebook, push on my glasses, click my pen into action.

(I’m old-fashioned, no fancy-schmancy electronic recording gadgetry for me.)

No doubt the literary world will be fine

if I simply sit and do nothing other than stare into the space around me.

But the Muse, it’s her fault I tell you, she’s always crowding around me

sticking her nose in my business, nudging me hissing in my ear:

“Come on man move it I got things to say.”

For My Four Year Old Daughter

A Poem by Seymour Brownstein

Little lady climbing all over me,
One would believe I’m a ramp,
Grand hugger would be more appropriate, maybe,
I love her the little scamp.

Reaching heights of delight I never could reach,
Her kiss on my cheek like morning dew wine,
all made possible with one little screech,
Little Pami, at four years old, mine.

Giving

When a white reporter asked Sitting Bull why his people admired him so much, Sitting Bull asked the reporter if a man in his culture was respected for having a lot of things—a big home, for example. The reporter answered by telling him that in his culture, yes, having many things made you more respected.

Sitting Bull then answered, “My people respect me because I keep nothing for myself.”

The Tower and the Man

A Poem by David Lander

The man, I believe it was a man,
dove from his apartment on the fiftieth floor
and like a sack of wet vegetables, landed hard.

At that moment he stopped being a man.
He stopped being anything and vanished.

The fire that had driven him from his home
continued to burn terribly.

The crowd that had gathered in horror at the spectacle
of the tower in flames, continued to gasp.

But the man who had landed so hard and heavily
was not with them or the fire or his body any more.

I do not know his name.
I do not know the number of his apartment,
or how he had decorated it or who he lived with
but I know this man.

He needs no name.
He needs no number.
He needs not love minimalism or shabby chic,
for I know who he is.

He left behind blood, flesh, bits of bone, water, chemicals, gas.
He left behind binding things, releasing things, gripping things
and washing things.
He left behind books, that, I dare say, others will have read,
music that others will have enjoyed, old photographs, perhaps,
clothes, plates, cups, a stove and a fridge.
They are now cinders.

By chance it was him who dove fifty floors.
who chose to lean out, to stare into a smoking space,
to look down at the upturned faces,
to glance at the stars, and it was he who chose
to lean out, as if to test gravity.

Perhaps, he said ‘Come on, show me your power. End this for me.’

And then leaned that bit further so his blistered fingers
on the hot metal behind slipped and he began his plummet.
Was he calm? No.

He was terrified, if he was, at this point, even a he,
or a human.
So terrified, he was beyond fear as we who survive know fear;
the fear of public speaking, the fear of farting, the fear of rejection.

He gave away balance, released his grip and was now in the hand of gravity,
that cold, relentless master, who called him silently down, and down and down,
moving progressively faster so that he hit the pavement hard and vanished.

I know who he was.
I know everything important about him.

Like me, he breathed.
Like me, he was alive.
And now is not.

Our Close Knit Town

A Poem by Pat St. Pierre

We hold fast in our cocoon.
Like the caterpillar
waiting to shed his thin chrysalis;
we remain insulated.
Our children mingle with their own kind;
few blacks or minorities pass us
on neighborhood streets.
We accept the falsehood,
believing we’ve made progress.
As another generation follows
in our footsteps
nothing will alter our suburban cocoon
unless
we uncover
something to rip away the walls
forcing true equality.

From the Grandfather Series

Two poets–one Vietnamese and the other American–and in both languages. Michael H. Brownstein translated both poems from English to Vietnamese–his first attempt at translation.

A POEM BY NGUYENVAN LUAT

Capella Evelyn, Nick name Bao La
Bao La!
Cháu gái bé Bao La

Từ bên kia trái đất

Chào đời! Chào cả nhà!

Chúc An khang Thịnh vượng!
Bao La tình nghĩa Mẹ – Cha!

Bao La bông lúa củ khoai tình ngườii!

Bao La bừng sáng bầu trời:

CHÂN – THIÊN – VIỆT-Mỹ đời đời Bao La!
Grand Father’s Bao La


Capella Evelyn, Nick name Bao La
Immense!

Baby girl Bao La

From the other side of the earth

Born! Hi all!

Chúc An Khang Prosperity!
Loving Mother Love – Father!

Bao La cotton rice yam yams love!

Bao La bright sky:

CHAN – THIEN – VIETNAM – USA forever Bao La!
Grand Father’s Bao La


A POEM BY MICHAEL H. BROWNSTEIN

Anh Sáng Ban Ngày
Tôi đánh thức sấm sét từ bên trong,

một cuộc đụng độ khác,

ngân hàng khóc vì thiếu,

công ty điện thoại sủa,

hàng rào xuống cấp và sau đó

một trong những con chó của chúng tôi nhảy qua

và tôi không thể tìm thấy cô ấy ở đâu cả.

Tôi phải đi làm, tôi có

việc vặt và việc làm và giấy tờ,

nhưng điều này sẽ cần phải được giữ,

Con chó được tìm thấy, an toàn. Một kiểm tra

với hàng hóa, tôi sửa hàng rào, kéo

một vài cỏ dại, một cây bắt đầu,

và tăng cường nghiêng.

Đã có hàng trăm người ở bên ngoài,

ánh sáng mặt trời đằng sau độ ẩm của mây,

và rồi tin tức đến qua—

một cháu gái, sinh ra bốn giờ sáng,

sáu cân, khỏe mạnh, đã đẹp—

và mặt trời xuyên qua lớp mây,

những bông hoa rực rỡ bởi bức tường phía xa

mở khuôn mặt vàng xinh đẹp của họ,

bụi hoa hồng mở miệng đỏ,

những bông hoa nhỏ màu trắng, hoa tử đinh hương,

bồ công anh, mulberries chín

và tất cả đều đúng với thế giới của tôi.

DAYLIGHT

I wake to a thunder from inside,
another clash of infection,
the bank crying about a lacking,
the phone company barking,
the fence degrading and then
one of our dogs jumps over
and I cannot find her anywhere.
I’ve got to go to work, I have
errands and deeds and paperwork,
but this will need to be put on hold.
The dog is found, safe. One check
to the good, I fix the fence, pull
a few weeds, a beginning tree,
and reinforce the leaning.
It’s already a hundred outside,
sunlight behind a humidity of clouds,
and then the news comes through—
a granddaughter, born four AM,
six pounds, healthy, already beautiful—
and sun breaks through the cloud cover,
the sunlit blossoms by the far wall
open their beautiful yellow faces,
the rose bush opens its red mouths,
the tiny white flowers, the lilacs,
the dandelions, the ripening mulberries
and all is right with my world.
So fresh and so clean.

Our Father’s Day Tribute

Poetry by Michael H. Brownstein

I CUT THE GRASS WITH MY SON

My son, no longer a boy, tall and taller
Leans into the lawn mower on the hill,
The last quarter acre of land, the grass
Tall, too, lanky like him allows itself
To shape shift, the first days of September,
The sun on fire, the air on fire, I am melting,
My hair loose over my face like a wet mop,
My shirt discolored with everything pouring
From me, but there is shade and somehow
A light breeze. My son is as composed as can be,
Pushing the mower up the hill for another pass.
When he is done, he asks what’s next.
The silk trees, I point, growing everywhere.
And the vinko vines leaching into tree trunks
We wish to keep healthy. There’s a strand
Of poison ivy. The evergreen needs a trim.
So we work and the weight of the work
Grows heavy within me, but he is not wet,
His hands are not dirty, and yet the silk trees
Fall, the vinko vines disrupted at their roots,
The poison ivy cut at its source. Next?
He asks, but I need a break, our gallon jugs
Humid in the heat, and I am hungry, too,
So we enter the house where his baby girl
Leans into her mother, already knowing strength,
And my son who is no longer a boy
Lifts his child carefully in his large hands,
Kisses her gently on the forehead once, twice, twice more.
We have to do more, he tells her. When we finish,
We’ll take a walk downtown, visit the library,
And maybe get a bite to eat. What do you think?
And he kisses her again, on the top of her head,
Rubs his hand through the soft silk of her hair,
His strong hands containing all of her, his baby girl
Making baby sounds, and my son blue skies happy.

I THINK ABOUT MY SON WHILE I CUT A QUARTER ACRE OF LAWN

The father trims trees; his son trims trees–
they stand together before a mosaic of large bark,
new blossoms, a glitter of leaf, each one
holds a clipboard and a small golf scoring pencil,
their heads bent towards each other discussing
length and circumference, distance and height,
dry rot, the mulberry growing out of the maple,
the small tree forming in the elbow of dogwood
and I cut the grass in long rows thinking of my son,
the flea market twenty dollar mower grunting
one line after another, steep hills, roots,
the remnant of an old wall now revealing itself,
rock and brick, tree debris, clumps of earth,
the sun warming me to sweat and brine,
knowing he is cool in his lab researching herbs
and a multitude of plants, degrees in botany,
grants to travel to Vancouver, Scotland,
the the north of Viet Nam near the Chinese border,
to Missouri and his farm of figwort and moss,
then Chicago to his office, a portrait of his son and wife
on the wall above his desk, a photo of his mother,
the air conditioner blasting, his equipment singing
soft hymns, his computers opening pages of notes.
He will be coming to visit late August, the grass
not as tall, the rocks and debris gone,
and he will wake after his first night in his old bed,
come down for breakfast, his family still recovering
from their long trip, and say to me,
“Let’s cut the grass?” and I will answer, “Yes.”

Pray Little Girl

A Poem by Fabrice Poussin

A dancer as Degas may have once painted you;
misty in a corridor bathed in a subtle light,
you seem to waltz as you skip from tile to tile.

Not a sound, just a hazy envelope of light,
surrounded by a dream, nothing could be more real;
eyes semi closed, a heart softly murmurs a praise.

Giddiness is not a question to be pondered,
every fiber of your being floats in a tenuous dance;
your dress shapes a skin of pearls, diamonds and gold.

Your lips, your soul, your every breath a subtle smile,
gently your chest heaves a life you generously share;
a gift few can comprehend, fewer are able to make.

Continue on your path little girl, a fall is unlikely;
come closer, it seems the universe leads you forward,
inexorably as it was meant to be when the world began.