The Color Of Mud by Michael H. Brownstein

If we are to believe the Bible, all of us came from the dirt of the earth. Can this be why God created so many colors of mud?
                        —Deborah Wymbs


Everything present, first mud.
Everyone in place, first mud.


a dimpling of clouds/a shadow of sunshine
like the farming wife’s farming husband,
the nurse who somehow knows of him,
and their easy way of talking.


A ghost is always in the equation,
near death but not dying,
or a remembered dead, sasha,
or the hunter who went into the forest
and never came out,
zamani, the forgotten dead,
until his grandson asked,
“What ever happened to Granddaddy?”
and the grandchildren of the great snake
near the bones by the dry stream bed apologized

and venom that took a life, healed it.
            Muscle knitted to bone.
            Blood vessel attached to muscle.
            Layers of skin protected lifelines.

            A wind threw itself up.

The man gasped,
            sat up,
            felt the need to run.

He was able to fly.

When he arrived home,
he held The Artifact of Great Value.
His family lined up to receive it,
and his neighbors, friends, an enemy or two.
He had eyes only for his grandson
and he reached for him,
his hands slipping.

He could not hold weight.

But The Artifact of Great Value was real.
The boy picked it up, placed it to his ear,
heard the digging of the dead.
He went on to be a great healer of The People.


A bridge is necessary most of the time.


Here we only found blonde sand
and over there, sand gray with age and wrinkled.
Elsewhere dried beds of water offered nothing.
Near the quarry, red clay, and under the tree,
rich blackness full of worms and beetle larvae.
In the cave and near an opening, just mud.


When my son digs the pond for his garden,
earth and grass and small branches stain his skin.
The rains come with thunder and brilliance,
the pond fills with water, twig and turtle.
Frogs avoid it, but snakes come to drink,
and the King of Deer leaves its track in the torn grass.
The pond is a great success and water lettuce take root.
Many days he watches an egg become
whole and living and dead. He remembers
many things and keeps neatly printed journals.


My wife studies wood,
            a shape to root and decadence,
            the forms of men in grain.

What color superman when his strength comes from a tree?
What hunger photosynthesis? Carbon dioxide? Radiant energy?

She sees a man go into the tree,
            find a sleeping place safe within its folds,
            and she draws him a power over rain,
            directions for sun-heat and light-fire,
            strength over the movement of root.


My daughter expresses color in algebraic equations.


And my grandson holds his hand out to be cleaned.
Inarticulate, he waves it like a wand,
an incoherence we understand to mean:
“Please, take this mud from my palm.
I only meant to see how it felt,
but now it is a part of me.”


Somewhere ash is running,
Building waters,
A great turbulence underground.


The importance of life
            is always in the remembrance of the dead,

not the hell we fall against,
            but the blazing heat of the Laplanders,
            the fierce fire that cannot go out in Vinland ,

a prayer to wood and fresh kindling,
the anger needed to warm a soul,


how mud bakes itself into brick

Michael H. Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses. He has nine poetry chapbooks including Poems from the Body Bag (Ommation Press, 1988), Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), The Possibility of Sky and Hell: From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013).

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