When carbon monoxide spills into the house,
The crack in the boiler warns them.
Thick black water tars the breaks in the floor
And he tastes the stagnant breath of stale life in his lungs.
So much easier to squeeze until it is squeezed away.

Some tasks are easier than others. Some skills
Swing to a levity of lighting, a need to stay awake
Until dizziness takes over, a deeding to the dark,
The panic that comes with the closing of the door,
The last residual gas straining air.

He holds onto her, touches her hair, lightly
Takes a breath near her left ear, wishes to kiss her.
He will not let go until she is ready
And even then he will not let go.
Everyone should be good at one thing.


She came home with a present of matching mopeds—
What an interesting way for me to commit suicide, he said,
And once when she posted their photograph on his page,
She tagged it: He’s creepy, but I’m the cutie.
She had this way of weaving stretch marks across his brow.
At night after the music is put away, after the dinner plates
Are piled into the sink, after the pots are left to soak,
They lay in bed together, she reading the full account
Of Mandelstrom throwing himself away because he had to.
She does not know he has already recorded it,
It and the words aura, animosity, abyss, anthrax.
When she curls away from him because she has to, he kisses
The back of her neck, pulls his hands to himself
And whispers, “Sweet dreams, my Nadezhda,”
Every activity, every encounter another attempt at suicide.

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, After Hours, Free Lunch, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review and others. In addition, he has eight poetry chapbooks including The Shooting Gallery (Samidat Press, 1987), Poems from the Body Bag (Ommation Press, 1988), A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004) and What Stone Is (Fractal Edge Press, 2005).

Brownstein teaches elementary school in Chicago ’s inner city, studies authentic African instruments with his students, conducts grant-writing workshops for educators and the State of Illinois Title 1 Convention, 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.
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