Four Poems | Michael Brockley

A Blind Date with Wendy, Before “Born to Run”


My sister fixed me up with Wendy over a Fourth of July weekend. The Jersey girl was finishing a special ed degree at Ball State. Kept one eye on the fast lane eastbound out of town. Said she missed the Jersey boardwalk and having a beach in her backyard. I worked at Creviston Steel. A twenty-five-year-old laborer with a driver’s license six months old. We ate dim sum and coconut chicken. Played miniature golf at a Putt-Putt stand. Wendy made three holes-in-one. I lost a ball in the windmill. At her apartment, she played Greetings from Asbury Park. Springsteen singing about running in the night. The words tumbling over each other faster than I could hear. A music driven to be born. The same craving welling within Wendy for velvet rims and saxophone solos. While “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog” rocked my Nova’s eight-track. I told Wendy I’d call her. I never did. I was just getting the hang of being a fool. Even then she had the highway in her eyes.


Celeste’s Confession

from Mystic River


I cleaned my husband’s wounds the night my cousin Katie was murdered. And threw away his blood-caked shirt while he cowered at the foot of our stairs. His shirt and hands lathered with guilt. He said he’d been mugged. That he might have killed the guy while bashing his head into the street. We lived between pink slips, kept the lights dim, dined on macaroni and cheese and peanut butter sandwiches. I married him at St. Johns, already carrying Michael. My husband walked our son to school, rooted for the Sox at McGill’s, and gloried in his baseball trophies. I know he escaped from wolves. That he was forced to live with fireflies. But the Mystic River Press never ran a back-page story about a dead lowlife found in the park. I quit looking him in the eyes. When I came home from staring at the city skyline, I found the father of my son ranting about werewolves and vampires. He dwelt for so long in the prison of his sorrows. As if the black Irish priest at church demanded a lifetime of penance in exchange for a shred of mercy. I’ve never called him my champion. Never bedded him while a parade celebrated beneath our bedroom window. I grew up in a family that lived by the old ways. An eye for an eye. We take care of our own. Never talk to the badges. A wolf escaped inside that boy when he fled that basement. Which lie should I wish I could take back?


Ode to a Piano-Wire Necklace

I lift the necklace from its jewelry box and cup it to my ear. “Piano wire necklaces,” she’d said, “are my favorite gifts.” I imagine its history of “Chopsticks,” of children who have graduated from practicing chords on cardboard keys, and I listen for echoes of the songs that once traveled its strands. “Clair de Lune.”  A jaunty “Auld Lang Syne” on a balmy December night. I shimmer the gift in my hand, a man unfamiliar with the silver and gold patina blessed by the light in my writer’s den. The link that will rest closest to her skin cues the jingle I stumbled toward as a burr-headed boy while my old German piano teacher hummed the rhythm. A melody I never heard. I drape the necklace back into the felt fabric at the bottom of the handcrafted box. It pools like water finding its depth. The melodies from “Heart and Soul” and “Someone Like You” stir beneath the closed lid, the fleeting rhapsody of my imagination. Still, I hold the necklace box close to my ear until the final note is whispered. Until only songlight remains.  I am learning how to give gifts again.


Report to Mars from This Country Where Everybody Plays

Naked apes keep score while they play Monopoly on game boards, while they imagine playing shortstop for the New York Yankees, and while they play chicken while racing hot rods in Rebel Without a Cause. Yet they never ask who won when an actor plays John Falstaff or Wednesday Addams. Naked apes play when they contend with an adversary in a sport or game that requires luck. Or skill. They play the long odds when buying lottery tickets by guessing seven numbers that might allow them to own tropical islands and Supreme Court justices, the way Stock Market high rollers do. Even though lmost every naked ape who plays Power Ball or bets on the horses or plays drums for Spinal Tap loses. Naked apes play against type when the blue-eyed Tom Joad portrays the killer who stalks the dusty streets of Sweetwater. Movie aficionados know the roles Jack Elam played in his silver screen career. Sometimes Elam played the fool, the henchman, and the liar; once he trapped a fly in his gun barrel as he played both sides against the middle. If such an opportune double-cross fell into his lap. The apes say, All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. The man who got off the train with a worn harmonica in one of the pockets of his duster wasn’t playing around when he challenged his would-be assassins on the opposite side of the tracks to make their play.


Photo by Markus Gjengaar on Unsplash


Bio: Michael Brockley is a retired school psychologist who lives in Muncie, Indiana. His poems have appeared in Assignment Magazine, Shorts Magazine,Last Stanza Poetry Journal, and Visiting Bob: Poems inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan. Poems are forthcoming in Gargoyle, Jasper’s Folly Poetry Journal, samfiftyfour, and Ekphrastic Review.

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