Poems by Michael H. Brownstein
For My Sister, Lori
–She will be missed.
She was beautiful
even when she was not–
even when she pretended not to be–
a huge window of passion
even as passion was downsized–
and, yes, she was beautiful
even when she was not.
I’m standing in some kind of church
praying to a foreign god:
Please make everything right.
Please make everything good.
The surgery to remover her brain tumor
I was maybe five.
Hey, I said, you have to listen to this
and I played Vanilla Fudge.
She clapped, asked for more,
and we chugalugged to the Supremes at the Copa.
I was maybe twelve.
I can handle this one, she commanded,
and I’m sure everything will be solved.
We were working in Uptown, Chicago,
a great sprawling slum violent and neglected.
She took the child under her wing
and he thrived because her wings were that strong.
I was ,maybe nineteen and she
one year younger.
Of course, you can come, and she laughed.
My home is always your home.
The pipes in my old house had burst again
and she warmed me with tacos,
handed me a warm towel,
asked what else I might need to be comfortable.
I was maybe in my thirties.
At the art fair,
she knew everyone.
Introduced me to one artist after another,
gave me a front row seat under her canopy.
What do you think? she asked
and without words she knew my response.
I was maybe forty-five.
Then one day she took a swim in the river
a Mercedes Benz
and climbed the banks a rusted Ford.
everything was underwater.
She asked me why this happened to her.
How do you answer that kind of question?
She died at 8:22 PM,
January 16th, 2022
complication from a stroke.
The night before she passed,
she spent the early evening
singing old time songs with her husband,
and even though her stroke
hit her five years earlier
and she could hardly see
or move parts of her body,
Oh, yes, she danced.
To Lori’s Husband, Enrique
–May he forever remain strong.
He told me she was his rock.
I already knew that.
He told me how beautiful she was.
This, too, I knew.
He told me he missed her.
I told him she was the house he dreamed
and he was it’s foundation.
I told him she was the stately oak
and he was its roots.
He married her after her stroke,
took care of her for five years
even when the path led only to quicksand
and hardened lava, sink holes and mud.
I thought how God brings people into your life
for a reason–she was his reason/
he was her angel of glory.
I want to let you know how rich they were together.
It’s important to me that you know.
They had a real love, a love so rich it shamed bankers,
shamed people yearning to be of the one percent,
and, yes, they were richer than even the richest half percent,
their love so great, so strong, even after the stroke
she was everything and so was he.
Enrique, remain steadfast in your love.
Remember your last night together.
You sang with her and I know Amun listened,
I know Osiris heard, I know the Turquoise Prince applauded,
I know Pacha Mama sang along.
Dance, Enrique, dance.
Your love is already immortal.