Four Poems | Michael Brockley

Best of Cream

Linda borrowed my Best of Cream album, the one with an eggplant and a pumpkin on the cover, the same day she told me I kissed like a dish cloth. The next day she rode shotgun with a grad student who careened his corona-red Firebird through stoplights while blasting Earth, Wind, and Fire on his eight-track cassette player. Naive to the erotic bloodlines of the blues, I didn’t know who this rider beside me was, but “Crossroads” was my favorite of the power trio’s greatest hits. I ached to fall down on my knees for love. She memorized Cream’s “Spoonful” with the fighting and dying parts I didn’t understand. But to Linda, adrenaline mainlined through her body in the front seat of a car named for a resurrection bird. And the man with his “September” serenade bedazzled her with revolution and a cement-block room in an apartment beside a jigsaw puzzle of railroad tracks. She never spoke of Ginger Baker or Jack Bruce. Never mentioned Slow Hand. But sang Love was changing the minds of pretenders while we walked home from the grocery store where she denied I was her main squeeze to the check-out clerk. Earlier that summer she danced with the moon while the Temptations wooed her from my Zenith Circle of Sound. We speculated about life on UFOs. And ate a Royal Feast pizza while the jukebox thrashed its heavy metal seizure. She didn’t return my album. But she was the first to leave a grief stone on the dime store altar I’d set aside for love. Now, whenever I approach an intersection at midnight, I search, with growing desperation, for a stranger in a white suit. When we meet, I will sign, in triplicate, any flimflam guarantee he pulls from his scorched briefcase, knowing in advance all the double crosses I will endure, if I can fall to my knees for any facsimile of love.

 

Make-Believe Love Poem for Abby and Santi

Santi travels from the bilberry orchards through Paraguay and Spain to where Abby samples rose wines in van Gogh’s night cafe. She reads Little Orphant Annie to the kindergarteners in the morning and chronicles the six-word biographies of wheat-field crows in the afternoon. Santi’s journey wends through Bedford Falls on Christmas Eve, through Pleasantville on the evening before Technicolor arrives, and through Punxsutawney on Phil Conner’s penultimate Groundhog Day. Santi is the sort of man who keeps the nail heads flattened atop wooden surfaces. His Volkswagens ride like Porsches. Abby tells the bare chested Zoosk men with their mottled fish upheld, like a lantern, that the art of conversation is dead. But Santi hitchhikes from Asbury Park through Johnstown and Erie to a city where the groomsmen are wedded in turquoise tuxedos and the brides in gowns woven from goldenrods. Santi thinks before he speaks of his practical labors, of his expertise with algorithms and defaults. Abby promises to name their son after a prophet or a wrestler. She wears black shawls and likes men who are tall, dark, and handsome. Santi keeps the bottled water cold and every times he comes home, he arrives for the first time.

 

Meditation

 

I take three deep breaths before starting along a path lined by purple zinnias and autumn’s last tithonias. The meadow around me echoes with a voice that says, “You’re welcome.” I carry a blank book in my arms and wonder how I can save elephants and rhinoceroses. One of the rooms in my house at the end of the path is an arboretum of poets whose poems I have cherished. They recite their masterpieces to each other, and I slip in among them, eager to hear their latest work. I hear all of them reading together as if creating a hymn. Some of the words rise to the rafters while others cluster at my feet, like a pack of weaned pups. I drink the milk my guide served me, and sample the strawberry-rhubarb pie.

 

Self-Portrait, with Sadie

for A. H.

 

It’s true that I felt taller then. I walked her around the obedience rink on a loose leash. She knew my muscles and their limitations better than I knew myself. Leaped to the commands as if she had authored the standards. She whispered to me. Sometime during that first year, I removed the choker collar and found a token to fasten around her neck, a strap of nylon for her ID tag. I wore khaki shorts during our lessons. For the nerdish pockets that acted as a chucklehead badge. A Gus Macker t-shirt and a gray baseball cap with a white German shepherd silkscreened across the crown. I fumbled the leads, starting on the wrong foot. But always with rewards and praise. She took the kibble from my fingers as if she had been suckled on tenderness. I didn’t know a white German shepherd could grow deaf with age. Or how keen the bond we formed could grow. In the winter of her years she roamed the distance of our backyard, and came without recall if my shadow cast its wishes across the Indiana dusk. I played the leash out before me during our last walk along the Cardinal Greenway. Sadie pranced before the passing dogs, but always turned to share her pride. As if making sure we walked toward the horizon together.

Photo by Daiga Ellaby 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 The Pine Cone Review, The Parliament Literary Journal, and Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the LIfe and Work of Bob Dylan.

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