My dear Cassandra, I must punish you. From this day on you will only speak the truth, but no one will ever believe you.
—Apollo to Cassandra after she broke one precept or another
My name is Cassandra,
But you believe me to be someone else,
And, yes, I am a woman.
Listen! My eyes are green,
My hair is black,
Greeks do hide in the belly of the horse.
I live here, behind that wall,
My bedding, that corner.
I need not latch my door
Nor do I need clothing during sleep.
Legs gapped open, I wait for you.
A BODY’S LANGUAGE IS SOMETIMES WRITTEN IN LATIN
One morning you roll over and wake to a stranger,
your body splintering into hard time.
Suddenly fingers do not remember how to lift a fork,
feet need a rhythm to climb the stairs,
even hair refuses the demands of a comb.
At the hospital, they make a study in mistakes,
the hard gurney bending too much into the wrong shape,
doctors arriving to play doctor, tests made, blood drawn.
They check your ears, look long into your eyes,
move you from one room to another, tell you to go home.
Sometimes there is nothing more anyone can do.
They send you away with prescriptions for pain and swelling,
directions you can barely see, your eyes so full of fire,
the skin surrounding them sulfur yellow and rotting eggs.
So it goes. All of your life this is your body.
It did its work and brought comfort to you.
Tonight you try to walk a straight line down the hallway.
Even in bright light, shadows are instruments of pain.
Night is the perfect mascara
Every bump, every turn, every pothole,
Crack, fissure, splinter, snap,
Fracture, rupture, splatter, break,
Slit, slash, scratch, split, every tear.
And lipstick? A beacon. A breeze.
How someone connects to a knife.
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, Rasputin, Skidrow Penthouse, Xavier Review, Hotel Amerika, Free Lunch, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, Poetrysuperhighway.com and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including The Shooting Gallery (Samidat Press, 1987), Poems from the Body Bag (Ommation Press, 1988), A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), What Stone Is (Fractal Edge Press, 2005), I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011), Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), The Possibility of Sky and Hell: From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013) and The Katy Trail, Mid-Missouri, 100 Degrees Outside and Other Poems (Kind of Hurricane Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).