The Orris: A Cultural Journal

Poetry: Michael Brownstein


beauty in the firecrackers falling in the distance,

the sound of earth baking, debris folding into itself,

clothing aflame, air on fire, light red and burning,

the trees swallow smoke, their limbs cackling like hoarse chickens,

the chickens scattering from the firefight,

bullets catching sleeping children behind walls of sheetrock,

blood the color of darkness within moonlight,

bombs falling into homes,

a mountain village a landscape of flares and somehow a gorgeous angel

dressed in tatters and silk, her face smooth and full of fruit,

stretches out her hands to catch

whatever falls from the skies and in the morning,

night’s beauty a black shadow,

more angels and us running from what once was whole,

but now broken bones and gashed flesh.


They could not bury them fast enough,

the rain thick and slippery, the mud a river,

and in the morning’s blue sky, a whip of cloud,

pink haze, great green vines hugging short trees to strangle them,

Wide-open eyes came through the silk of earth

and we could identify many we had known

before the men came, and the cruel women with them.

Much had been stolen from us in the night.

Much had been broken: doors, glass, flooring fifthly with blood,

flesh caught on splinters and doorjambs, a wetness of fear.

Stains go away in time, but the exposed faces

staring upwards, no, those faces remain with us like skin,

a deep rash itching so badly we cannot stand in ourselves.

Michael Brownstein

Illustration by Patrick Peltier



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