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Poetry

A Geography of Place

Michael H. Brownstein

“We’re in Annie’s area,” she told the younger woman 
and they both turned to look through the window,
the forest injured bark and grass sprite, earth nymph 
and wind seed, water of the moon and a ladder to light.
They spoke Russian, then, quickly, each word a gunshot.
“Oh! We don’t mean to exclude,” someone said to someone else, “but—“ 
the prairie rough bunched grain and shallow swallows of mud,
cracked earth, a path to an old quarried stone house,
the great absence of trees. “This is Sam’s neighborhood,”
and she pointed past an abandoned work shack, 
a lonely live oak with bruised branches, and a butterfly of light,
suddenly, like the color of maple trees one morning in the fall. And I, 
surrounded by all of them writing, talking, working, a currency 
of language and colloquialism, think to my own son, 
Korey, his young unframed view of the world,
his fierce energy and angered conviction, his young banana tree,
his flowering weed, his common yucca growing a single stalk to die.
Trees grab the right away near the stone road,
white leaf like moth light. Then: a puddle, a swamp, dead water,
an invisible stream dissolving earth until it is exactly earth.
My son told me once, “I am the master gardener,” and I 
sink my fists into that truth. “Here’s the great waterway
Uncle Charlie always talks about,” the woman nearby day dreamed 
to no one in particular, the river gray like rain on asphalt—
“Ethah bihla dyesyits lyet nahzat.*”—thick and tired, always trying, 
a multitude of Korey’s somehow getting all of the work done. 

*Russian: “That was ten years ago.” 

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