Because of Agent Orange
by Michael H. Brownstein

There are things you must explain to me
darkness is one, the red flare of light another

Again the morning sky overcast and dust,
a pallor of bruised flesh and blackened eyes.
Again the rains do not come, a stutter of thunder,
lightning the blink of a bulb burning out. Nothing more.

Every child who died before birth from Agent Orange poisoning
entered the night sky a new star—
every child who died before the age of ten from Agent Orange poisoning
entered the day sky dust particle and acid.

Again the afternoon dry and quiet, the wind
curse words and disease, a spread of injury.
Again evening came with the silence of the screech owl.
Again the sky cleared, the stars shined,

we could see clearly exactly what we caused.

Michael H. Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses. His work has appeared in The Café Review, American Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Xavier Review, Hotel Amerika, Free Lunch, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks includingThe Shooting Gallery (Samidat Press, 1987), Poems from the Body Bag (Ommation Press, 1988), A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), What Stone Is (Fractal Edge Press, 2005), and I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).

Brownstein taught elementary school in Chicago’s inner city (he is now retired), but he continues to study authentic African instruments, conducts grant-writing workshops for educators, designs websites and records performance and music pieces with grants from the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs, the Oppenheimer Foundation, BP Leadership Grants, and others.