Michael Brownstein



Himidulah and his small friend
Ride the elevated for practice.
“Keep your little friend safe,”
The man reading the poetry journal says.
Himidulah leans inward. “Yes,”
And he adds emphasis to the S
As a sign he understands respect.
“These are fields of poison oak and shrapnel.”
The man continues, “Heading downtown?”
“No,” Himidulah answers. “My auntie’s house,”
And his friend calls to him, the train sways,
A door opens, and they go to the next car.

The man turns the page and leans back.
Once upon a time he met a killer on the train
(Not a killer yet, but one growing inside).
“Should you be with these older boys?”
He asked turning the page of a Kafka short story.
“Yes,” the child answered. He too
Knew the respect in the letter S.
“Poison ivy is not a practiced skill,”
The man said. He remembers
How he could not deface the situation,
How he let the child go his way.
They threw the boy into the cold lake
And only luck and thick ice saved him.
Five years later he killed his first man.
Keep the child safe. It is that simple.
You can never practice enough.

And once in the time of rural kings and popsicles,
The man boarded the train and saw two pairs of twins.
“Excuse me, gentleman,” he said, “put away
The guns, please, and give the gentleman
His wallet. Apologize. Come sit by me.
I have a need for these guns.”
The elevated rolled, but the man stood still
In the aisle and watched. “Deep and unsettling
Is the prairie grass,” he said. “Damp and alarming.”
He leaned back into the seat and closed his eyes
To everything around him. He slept.

They think we are all made for God,
That some of us do not practice more.
This is the fine tune of the cello.
The man on the elevated listens to the breath
Of the others. There would be other opportunities
To watch the play of little ones,
Find the thought meant to cover everything.
Poison oak, poison ivy, the dark and damp
Tall grasses hiding everything and nothing.
Outside the window thick with grease and air
The sun shines with earnestness bright
And perfect, mounting the sky, letting
Its years of experience shine.