Four Poems| Michael Brockley

Bob Dylan’s Harmonica Speaks Its Mind


Hohner, here, you stallions and fillies. Harp’ll do too. If my voice sounds like cinders rattling off the undercarriage of a train, I spent the last fifty years sucking Chesterfield smokes and Camel breath. At least during those times when Grunt weren’t blowin’ electric on “Tangled Up in Blue.” Back in those days, I’d argue anyone on Gorilla Monsoon’s behalf. Always wanted one of those belts with the big-ass wrestling champion buckle up front, but you might say I haven’t got the hips for it. Most of my high times were spent riding in the baggage trailer with the soundboards and microphones while the tour bus hummed up and down Highway 61. What would a woofer know, after all, about Monsoon’s dreaded Manchurian Splash or the Airplane Spin? Hulk Hogan warn’t my type of hero. In aught-two, I hooted it up one Halloween night at the Murat in Indianapolis. All those covers: “Carrying a Torch,” “Old Man,” “Tears of Rage.” Along with Zimbo’s tornadacane of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” But I disguised myself as a Johnson Blues King that night. Grunt mistook me for a stowaway and played my stunt double every time my number was called on the playlist. And me in the best seat in Indiana. Had to break out the “Scary Day Blues” though. The a cappella version. To regain his good graces. Trick or treat, Zimbo! But those Rolling Thunder days were the best. Serenading Scarlet Rivera and Sharon Stone backstage. Ginsberg hiding me in a vest pocket when we played that minor league park in Durham. “Love Minus Zero” and “All Along the Watchtower.” Poems about getting lost in the produce aisle of America. “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” I even got soulful with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost until, you might say, I re-found the groove. Someone in the entourage hooked me up with that Seinfeld laugher about nothing at all, with its puffy shirts, Festivus holiday pole, and the Kavorka. I cringed a hundred times during Do the Opposite Day. I could’ve taught Elaine how to get the party started. And those downtimes while Grunt sang Sinatra. Now, I’m making do with the harmonica end times. Stevie Wonder. Neil Young. Sugar Blue. Blind Boy Grunt, a’course. All masked and hunkered down in their studios. Shakey writing a memoir about the vintage cars he bought in his rock ’n roll heyday. Keep on rockin’ in the free world! I’m tucked away in a harper’s valise. Be patient, stallions and fillies. We’ll never run out of the blues.



Dog Walk with Sadie Through the Starry Night Village While Shelley Spends a Week in Massachusetts.


From The Starry Night (1889) by Vincent van Gogh, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France, at The Museum of Modern Art


I walk the streets of the village beneath the starry night. While Shelley finishes the first day at a retreat in a Buddhist temple near a town famous for its fossil museum. She emails me photographs of the paths she hikes, and I heart-emoji the ones that curve into the horizon. The ones that cathedral a late winter forest. In the van Gogh village I stop by the pub where masterpiece models gather.  Behind its batwing doors, the American Gothic man complains to the girl with the pearl earring about a splinter in his pitchfork handle. At the bar Mona Lisa repeats a joke about St. Stephen eating three persimmons by mistake. Shelley and I have hiked a trail in the Limberlost and celebrated her birthday by raving over Wings of Desire and Out of the


Past while sharing salmon and a scallops salad at Seasons 52. On the Starry-Night street, I am joined by my dead German shepherd from the Aught years, from the last days of my being a man. She herds me away from the inn where I’ve never felt I belonged in the times I’ve visited here before. Where I apologized for wearing Drakkar Noir cologne and for remembering a birthday from fifty years ago. The shadow of the black spire sprays silver will o’ wisps into the alleys we pass, as Sadie and I enter a vacant dog park on the outskirts of the hamlet. Where my white shepherd rejoices by spinning clockwise and counterclockwise until she is dizzy with hunger for whitefish kibble. And as I treat her with the tidbits I find in my pocket, I think of how Shelley draped a midnight comforter over me while we watched Belfast, how she laughed when I


mentioned the superpowers bestowed upon the retired, how she asked if I like marzipan. Sadie’s ghost hides face masks and cowboy hats from me when I am home. But I never see her except when I visit this village beneath its pinwheel lights. Now she nestles into my reverie for a caress. At Christmas Shelley bought me a purple Aloha shirt with horsemen arrayed against a rising sun on the front and back. Like in The Magnificent Seven. I gave her a t-shirt with She Who Wanders Is Not Always Lost printed across the front. As I leave the park and walk past the cabin where Basquiat’s jazz king reads Tarot futures, Sadie slips away into the backstreets of this city that passes from dusk to night and back to dusk again.




Owed to the Prostate Rumination Blues


You revolted during my graybeard 60s, decidedly not the free-love decade with sinsemilla breakfasts and Janis Joplin afternoons. In those bell-bottom days, you kept out of sight. The perfect wingman hanging out with the kidneys and gallbladder while I gulped tequila shots before dancing a slow spin to “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”  I never thought about your walnut-sized presence among my family jewels until pissing morphed into squirting fiascos. Fifteen minutes apart. As a golden oldie shaking Eveready before a urinal, I rediscovered dance moves I invented when I boogied to “Piece of My Heart.” And still dribbled most of Niagara Falls down a pants leg five minutes after zipping up my fly. The gallbladder and one kidney skipped out when you went AWOL on your low-profile job. Now you’re a coconut, putting the squeeze on your pals the bladder and the urethra. A wastrel. A slugabed. My urologist gloves up just to assure me you’re still hogging all the space in my outdated hydraulics amusement park. You should be aware how disturbed the other sweetmeats of Brockleyopolis have become. They’re drawing up petitions. Placing ads on the billboards that line the veins and arteries. The bladder never signed on for this half-full, half-empty dilemma. The heart persists with its Get-It-While-You-Can invocations while the brain still craves more moaning at midnight. Even the space the gallbladder occupied keeps singing its Summer-of-Love lullaby. O, bloated nut, O, inconstant P-spot, I still feel the pull of those old time kozmic blues.






Once upon a Time in Authority, U. S. A.: A Cento for John Mellencamp


In the company of sad clowns and small-town football stars, Mr. Happy Go Lucky wastes his days arm wrestling John the Revelator at the Darkland County Fair. Eden burns on Freedom’s Road, and the last good Samaritan calls the rain down on the scarecrow. The American fool nails a danger list to the menu board at the Lonely Street Tastee-Freez. And the taxi dancer delivers a crate of cherry bombs to the National Guard armory where the folks who lived in pink houses once danced naked to “Rave On.” It’s past time for Jesus to leave Birmingham and for Gypsy Scotty to slow dance in his big yellow Plymouth in a parking lot somewhere in Key West. At the entrance to Heartbreak Hotel, Diane kisses Santa Claus one last time. Only Big Daddy still practices a rough harvest on his crazy island. Mr. Happy Go Lucky will always lie to strangers, even when the Ghost brothers offer him a ride home. He thinks he’s famous for his last call words, “If there are mansions in heaven, heaven is a lonely place.”


Credits for Cento Once upon a Time in Authority, U. S. A.: A John Mellencamp Cento


“Authority Song”

“R. O. C. K. in the U. S. A.”

Sad Clowns and Hillbillies

“Small Town”

Mr. Happy Go Lucky

“Wasted Days”

“John the Revelator”

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

“Eden Is Burning”

“Freedom’s Road”

“The Good Samaritan”

“Rain on the Scarecrow”

American Fool

“Danger List”

“Lonely Street”

“Taxi Dancer”

“Cherry Bomb”

“Pink Houses”

“Dance Naked”

“Rave On”

“When Jesus Left Birmingham”

“Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)”

“Heartbreak Hotel”

“Jack and Diane”
“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”

Big Daddy

Rough Harvest

“Crazy Island”

Mr. Happy Go Lucky

“I Always Lie to Strangers”

“A Ride Back Home”

“Mansions in Heaven”

“Heaven Is a Lone

Photo by Devon Hernandez on Unsplash


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 Wordpeace, Assignment Magazine, and Last Stanza Poetry Journal. Poems are forthcoming in Down in the Dirt, samfiftyfour, and Ekphrastic Review.

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