April 2-8, 2018: Poetry from Michael H. Brownstein and Helen Bar-Lev

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Michael H. Brownstein and Helen Bar-Lev

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Michael H. Brownstein

Bio (auto)

Michael H. Brownstein’s work has appeared in The Café Review, American Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, Poetry Super Highway and others. He has nine poetry chapbooks including A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004) and The Possibility of Sky and Hell (White Knuckle Press, 2013). He presently resides in Jefferson City, Missouri where he lives with enough animals to open a shelter.

The following work is Copyright © 2018, and owned by Michael H. Brownstein. and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

The World is Not Coming to an End

One one by four oak plank,
a water logged salt stained antler of driftwood,
the soft skin of butternut bark and scar.
The world is coming to an end, she said,
and the young girl down the street
tied a dog’s leash around her neck
and went for broke. Elsewhere,
a dust of clouds rose from the shoreline,
smoke from a mountain shaft tinged the air,
an airplane let loose flames that blackened in the light.
How much strength to rise each morning,
eyes injured on a disfigured face,
the rocking of the body, the rhythm of what is heard
and what is not heard.
The world is coming to an end, she said,
and a boy was born to the mother of a soldier,
the son of a veteran in another round of war.
Count the fingers, count the toes,
how does his face look?
Years will go by,
a tree will mature and grow strong.
The world will not come to an end.
Let’s gather wood on the beach near the dunes.
You know the place–down the thick sand trail,
across a few ridges, near the graveyard of branches
where leaf  changes to stone.
Once we dug a hole in the sand, placed sleeping bags
for flooring, built a roof with whatever wood
we could find. Openings filled themselves with night

and we slept well.



Helen Bar-Lev

Bio (auto)

Helen Bar-Lev was born in New York in 1942. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology, has lived in Israel for 46 years and has had nearly 100 exhibitions of her landscape paintings, 34 of which were one-woman shows.  Her poems and artwork have appeared in numerous online and print anthologies.  Six poetry collections, all illustrated by Helen.  She is the Amy Kitchener senior poet laureate and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2013.  She is the recipient of the Homer European Medal for Poetry and Art.  Helen is Assistant to the President of Voices Israel. She has lived in Metulla, Israel for the past 11 years, before that Jerusalem, before that the Artists Colony in Tsfat, before that Jerusalem, before that Rehovot, before that Jerusalem. Visit her on the web here.

The following work is Copyright © 2018, and owned by Helen Bar-Lev and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Who Knows?

Father said that he purchased a kid for two zuzim,
a very cheap price,
but do we really believe him?
more logical that he stole it
because why else would he keep
a goat in the house…
where the cat could kill him?
But maybe we should pause right here
and question if this is an exaggeration,
because it’s really a stretch of the imagination
to think of a cat killing a goat
maybe the narrator meant a lion?
Or… maybe Father killed the goat
and said: The cat did it;
gave it a bit of meat to apologize…
and then the dog smelled the meat
and attacked the cat –
and stole the meat the cat ate –
we won’t say it killed the cat,
bad enough a dead goat,
we prefer to visualize that the feline
escaped unscathed…
now suddenly out comes a tricky stick,
no arm attached to it – but look closer,
through the cloak of invisibility –
is that Father beating the dog?
Now this is definitely cruelty to animals –
Did someone witness this?  Report it to the SPCA?
Record it on a cell phone? Send the video to the media?
Put it up on You-Tube? Father Beats Poor Hungry Mongrel –
you can bet he’ll be fined, or taken to trial…
Oh no! Now there’s a fire in the fields near the house –
Is this revenge on Father for beating the dog?
Who started it? Is it spreading? Will it consume the crops?
Should this be considered arson?
Quick, call the fire department, the police –
Wait!  Did Father do this, to distract from the fact
that he beat that poor dog?  If so, he’ll never admit it…
And now, as if by magic, out comes a bucket –
who holds it, no one knows –
perhaps another invisible person? – Mother?
The fact of the matter is that this is a waste of water –
after all there’s been a drought these many years,
which is how we ended up in Egypt in the first place,
and anyhow, by the time the bucket came on the scene
the fire had almost consumed itself, which is what fires do
in the desert, as we all know, except for the bucket-carrier,
maybe Mother, but probably Father…
At least the ox had a good drink, poor fellow,
beast of burden, all day long ploughing, turning mills,
and then, on the occasion of any celebration,
slaughtered and eaten; that is the gratitude of humans –
Quick beautiful ox, lap up that water
before Father gets any more ideas
…Uh oh, wouldn’t you know it?
the Slaughterer beat Father to it
so much killing in this narrative –
well, that’s the Bible for you –
now all the village is dividing up the ox –
forgive me – I can’t look;
well, to be philosophic,
Biblical people can’t really go to the supermarket
to buy meat all wrapped up in sanitized packaging,
can they?
Well, well, poetic justice, just deserts and all that:
the Slaughterer just got it –
a slingshot to the forehead?
An arrow through the heart?
Sword, dagger, spear? –
weapon unimportant to the Angel of Death,
dead is dead and that is that,
bye-bye Slaughterer
Okay, God now, taking centre stage
slaughtering the Angel of Death –
(does that mean we’ll live forever?) –
(also, one wonders how it is possible to kill an Angel
and if Angels have blood…  maybe the Lord chose
to poison this one, or give him a lethal injection or whatever…) –
who slew the Slaughterer
who slaughtered that innocent ox
who had spent all its life serving humans
and only wanted to drink the water
that put out the fire
that burned the stick that was beating that dog
who attacked the cat because it was hungry
because Father didn’t feed it,
and that covers it all, except for the goat
who is dead and out of the house
so that Father has more room to stretch his legs
while Mother is in the kitchen, baking the matza





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