Four Poems | Michael Brockley


It was the year beautiful brunettes wore their hair like elaborate midnights on top of their heads. Everyday, I stifled the urge to kiss the brunette pianist who read music with brown eyes. She taught the bankers’ wives to play piano. “Chopsticks” and “Turkey in the Straw.” I listened on a bench across the street from her walk-up on Charles. Usually, I read the paper, following the fate of the Reds or the Browns. Straining to hear the lilt in her voice, guessing at the subtle accent when she complimented a student’s chording. Sometimes, I brought musty books I’d inherited from my uncle. Tales of traveling from oasis to oasis on camels. Reflections on eating Japanese persimmons in a dojo while seeking shelter from a snow storm. She rarely passed by the  window without curtains.. But when she did, she looked beyond where I perched with my Major League standings or paragraphs of second-hand derring-do. Her lips always poised on the verge of a song, a first kiss. I had to remind myself to breathe..



Diamonds Between the Dirt and the Stars


We watched another desert angel die while praying for a Mercedes Benz during a drive on the freeway of love. Now the fox confessor brings the flood to a house full of empty rooms. The pavement cracks. The stretch limousine is on fire. Amid rumors of landslides and love droughts, bramble roses and rumble dolls fumble toward ecstasy like butterflies caught in the rain. The Millennium Theater in Zion has padlocked its doors while Sinnerman deals hard luck aces at the Last Chance Texaco, and Jesus labors over one more cross hewn from our constant cravings. In France they kiss on Main Street, but we’re reduced to rustling runaway horses for the last great American dynasty. What used to be a playground is now a map of the world. Jupiter has swallowed the moon. Fetch the bolt cutters. We don’t need another hero.


Credits for Cento Diamonds Between the Dirt and the Stars


“Diamonds and Rust,” Joan Baez

“Between the Dirt and the Stars,” Mary Chapin Carpenter

“Desert Angel,” Stevie Nicks

“I Saw an Angel Die,” Bobbie Gentry

“Freeway of Love,” Aretha Franklin

“Mercedes Benz,” Janis Joplin

Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Neko Case

“A House Full of Empty Rooms,” Kathleen Edwards

“Pavement Cracks,” Annie Lennox

Stretch Limousine on Fire, Catie Curtis

“Landslide,” The Dixie Chicks

“Love Drought,” Beyonce

Bramble Rose, Tift Merritt

Rumble Doll, Patti Scialfa

“Fumbling toward Ecstasy,” Sarah MacLachlan

“Just Like a Butterfly That’s Caught in the Rain,” Diana Krall

“Millennium Theater,” Ani DiFranco

“To Zion,” Lauryn Hill

“Sinnerman,” Nina Simone

“Hard Luck Ace,” Lucy B. Dalton

“Last Chance Texaco,” Rickie Lee Jones

“Jesus Was a Crossmaker,” Judee Sill

“Constant Craving,” k. d. laing

“In France They Kiss on Main Street,” Joni Mitchell

“Ballad of a Runaway Horse,” Emmylou Harris

“The Last Great American Dynasty,” Taylor Swift

“This Used to Be My Playground,” Madonna

“A Map of the World,” Jennie DeVoe

“Jupiter (Swallow the Moon),” Jewel

Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple

“We Don’t Need Another Hero,” Tina Turner



American Exodus

In the year of living dangerously, we fled from the macho cries into fury’s nomad land before the Devil knew we were dead. Throughout our migration, the news of the world shadowed and fogged the suspects we left behind. We walked alone, crossed mystic rivers and dared the passage through a dead zone that skirted the kingdom of heaven. In Atlantic City, a girl with a dragon tattoo promised us eternal sunshine. But we carried a falcon in our exodus ark. As well as a wicker basket of minari and a strange night love for the last harvest of honey. Divided amongst ourselves between insomnia and the big sleep, we arrived at a train station to find two horses too many tied to a hitching post. Somewhere in the West, it’s already too late for tears. But one of us will always write the names of those we lost in the first page of the gospel of the missing.


Credits for Cento American Exodus


The Year of Living Dangerously, 1982

Cry Macho, 2021

Fury, 1936

Nomadland, 2020

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, 2007

The News of the World, 2020

Shadows and Fog, 1991

The Usual Suspects, 1995

I Walk Alone, 1947

Mystic River, 2003

The Dead Zone, 1983

The Kingdom of Heaven, 2005

Atlantic City, 1980

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. 2009

The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2004

The Maltese Falcon, 1941

Minari, 2020

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, 1946

American Honey, 2016

Insomnia, 1997

The Big Sleep, 1946

The Train, 1964

Once upon a Time in the West, 1968

Too Late for Tears, 1949

The Missing, 2003



Conversations Overheard from the October 5, 2023, Art Walk Gala

Check out the cookie tray the Artists Guild left in the gallery. Chocolate chip and peanut butter. No Mexican wedding cakes for you until Christmas. The bass guitarist from your hometown told you he took your high school crush to The Who concert in Dayton. 1971 or thereabouts. Called


her Megan. Or Mauve. Names seemed more malleable then. Wasn’t the couple by the potholder table the same husband and wife who read The Good Lord Bird in that book club where the warhorse teacher said, Piffle, when you claimed to be a poet? ’Tis the season to be creepy.


Roadtrip sounds like it ought to be two words. Two characters that sound dangerous. What with “Road” tipping his porkpie at Holly Golightly. And “Trip” in the shadows beneath a dusty fedora. Don’t forget to sample the lemon sugar bombs. Who’s not a fan of The Nightmare Before


Christmas when Jack Skellington comes a-courtin’. All we have left are discount Shakespearean actors and Pennywise pretenders. The clown face popping up from the gutters scared a white streak into your hair. It must be fun to play the villain. All those opportunities to wear a cape. By


the way, who designed the jackalope tattoo on your bicep? Just a heads up. The Halloween Oreos are almost gone. You hope The Who shredded “Won’t Get Fooled Again” for Maureen. You still remember her name.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash


Michael Brockley is a retired school psychologist who lives in Muncie, Indiana. His poems have recently appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, Barstow and Grand, and Dissent. Poems are forthcoming in Of Rust and Glass, Last Stanza Poetry Journal, The Parliament Literary Journal, Alien Buddha, and the museum of Americana’s Americana Stories Web Features.

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