Four Poems|Michael Brockley

Aloha Shirt Noir


You retired from asking kindergartners to tell you a synonym for lie. And hung your brand-new P. I. shingle over a studio above a graphic novel store on Highway 13. During your last trip to the fiftieth state, you bought a closet-full of Aloha shirts with Hawaii-5-0 badges adrift on a bed of yellow orchids. Your wardrobe set until the gentleman in the Inquisition robe decides to collect his bounty. The hostess at the Luau diner you patronize on Saturday nights always tags your reservation as Danno. Sometimes, she twirls a strand of hair around the index finger that has the hot pink fingernail. Offers to meet you for a glass of wine if you can fit yourself into a white button-down Oxford with a civilized necktie. You call her Carnival Star. Tell her your calendar is booked through Valentine’s Day. You’ll pencil her in for the following weekend. She hands you a new menu, highlighting the surf-and-turf dishes and asks why there are no numbers on your badges. This is your weekly schtick. Your Who’s-On-First banter. You tell her you’re incognito. That you do your best work undercover. She asks about your Christmas plans. Worries about driving the Dan Ryan on her way to her hometown in Wisconsin. You tell her your hometown is the zip code on your MasterCard bill. She leaves before confessing to the tragedies behind her sparkling teeth and carnival-night eyes. A niece kidnapped into a life of West Coast parties spent in rooms lit by lamps covered with red scarves. Relatives abandoned by human coyotes in a locked trailer along a dirt road in a dead-end arroyo. You order the Hawaiian Escobar from a waitress with Cierra written on her name tag. Wonder if you might find a suitable white button down at Goodwill.



American Beauty


In this nomadland, you have crossed the bridges of Madison County to play Misty for a million dollar baby. The postman always rings twice in this country of old men. The place where you ask yourself when the French lieutenant’s woman will fly over the cuckoo’s nest? And what are the rainmaker’s five easy pieces? If you’re coming to America, pledge yourself to the hitch-hiker’s terms of endearment for it is Groundhog Day among the daughters of the dust. The evening before the grapes of wrath. Throughout the night of the hunter, you carry the winter’s bone you took up for the commitments. Until a high plains drifter emerges out of the past pursued by Judas and a black messiah. Say no to Elmer Gantry and Johnny Guitar. To Moby Dick. At last, you have become the long goodbye, the big heat, and the furies. It’s too late for tears.



Ars Poetica


I believe good trouble is necessary trouble and that our eyes were never watching god. I believe in science and the ghost of Tom Joad. In Billy and the Boingers, the North American Jackalope Preservation Society and the rug that ties the room together. In the “Nevermore” raven and the mockingbird in the tunnel of love. In the phoenix in the hall of mirrors trilling, “Aloha” to Blind Boy Grunt  I trust the trembling finger on the machine that kills fascism. Those dining room anthems picked in a minor key. I dissent and tell it on the mountain. I am the dunce based on the novels by Stephen King. I wake up every morning to find my high school class in charge of the country. My Spartan classmates of Lord Love a Duck and Bonnie and Clyde. I’m your huckleberry in an ugly Christmas sweater. I’m only here for the pie.




Better not tell you now


After the ceremonial shake, the Magic-8 Ball answers with ambivalence. Eight-ninety-nine for a toy oracle’s equivocations. You’re better off with Asian Kitchen’s cookie fortunes. Landing is always on the mind of a flying bird. To live alone one must be a beast or a god. The cardinals in the barberry bush outside your bedroom window must seem like gods, like Athena or ibis-headed Thoth, when they feed white insects into their offspring’s straining maws. You spy on the nest from your window. A toffee-nut latte with almond milk steaming in your coffee mug with your last German shepherd’s face printed next to the handle. The dog of your raw unmothered heart. What if Magic-8 Balls squared off against fortune cookies? Don’t Count on It against Curiosity Is One of Your Best Qualities. Like a movie at the Bijou from your childhood. Mothra Vs. Godzilla or Hawkman Battles Nighthawk. In the afternoon while the hen and the cock scavenge for their young, you read fortunes to the chicks. You should enhance your feminine side. The usefulness of a cup is its emptiness. The fortune you seek is in another cookie. After she covers her nursery at twilight, the hen stares at you with obsidian eyes. If you held a Fortune-Teller Miracle Fish in the palm of your hand, would its head rise with jealousy?


Photo by Ana Silva on Unsplash

Bio: Michael Brockley is a retired school psychologist who lives in Muncie, Indiana where he is looking for a dog to adopt. His poems have appeared in Fatal Flaw, Unbroken, and Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan. Poems are forthcoming in Flying Island, Last Stanza Poetry Journal, and Parliament Literary Journal.

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