Michael Brockley is a semi-retired 68-year old school psychologist who continues to play his trade in rural northeast Indiana. His poems have appeared in Atticus Review, Gargoyle, Third Wednesday, Flying Island and Tattoo Highway. Poems are forthcoming in Clementine Unbound and Zingara Poetry Picks.
A Surprise Birthday Party for Tina, with Unexpected Guests
You open the door to find Amelia Earhart, Zelda Fitzgerald and Banana Yoshimoto on the front porch, each carrying a birthday cupcake and a gift. “It’s just us Electras,” says Earhart, “Men talk too much. Banana sent Alexandre Dumas and Robert Graves to the wrong address in Queens. Like pretending to throw a ball for a basset hound before hiding it behind your back.” “I love a prank that goes badly,” says Fitzgerald. You welcome them into your living room and offer them seats. They place their gifts on the coffee table before sitting together on the sofa. Earhart tugs a bottle of sauvignon blanc and a bottle of merlot from a purse as large as a cargo plane. Says, “We guessed at the wine,” as Yoshimoto uncorks and pours the red into Spode stemware. Fitzgerald proposes a toast, then asks about your photograph of the Smoky Mountains. Yoshimoto smiles her admiration for your Japanese vases. She breathes the merlot’s aroma. Sips. The aviator compliments you on the cityscape above the fireplace, likens it to your photographs of the skyline of Madrid, those narrow, shadowed streets. After Yoshimoto finishes her drink, your guests set their glasses aside to hand you the gifts they brought. Yoshimoto presents you with an autographed copy of Kitchen wrapped in a purple and red scarf. Fitzgerald gives you her diary, with the lines Scott plagiarized highlighted in pink. Her script is clear with the final letter in each word clipped. You leaf through the diary, an impulse gift from the flapper. Yoshimoto blushes at a scandalous passage and Fitzgerald fidgets for a cigarette when Earhart offers a black earring box with a hinged lid. After removing the ribbon and opening the present, you hold the last remaining pair of human wings in your hands. A gift you can only use once.
The Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Marilyn Monroe walks into a diner. Cleavage escaping from her scarlet dress. She breathes Boys, this joke’s grown stale and sits beside Humphrey Bogart beneath a neon Phillies cigar. Bogey stabs a Camel into an ashtray. Rasps I forget what we drove in Key Largo. That Cuban song she hummed. Elvis Presley crosses the linoleum floor to change the “Open” sign to “Closed.” Returns to the counter to stir amnesia into Marilyn’s cup of joe. Beneath a flickering light, James Dean pantomimes a high school basketball game. His finger roll shot in the final seconds. But his hand clutches at the Porsche’s gearshift instead. He gulps a Lucky Strike. Orders ice water. Elvis slides the drink toward Dean and turns to Bogey who is telling the woman in red that he can’t remember the taste of pears. Her silhouette. Slim. Marilyn purses her heartbeat lips. Crosses her legs. She signals the King who gropes for the mirror in his glass of forgiveness and has never been more alone. Bogey attaches himself to another unfiltered Camel, pulling at the nicotine. Dean gazes out the window at a stoplight that vacillates between shades of red. Cigarette smoke curls toward a draft borne on disheveled bed sheets and highway speed. In the corner, a trashcan overflows with broken 45s. A jukebox that has never been played remains unplugged. Its needle poised forever above a never-changing song.
At the crossroads of a soybean town in Indiana, Aloha Shirt Man types on-demand poems on an Olympia manual at a folding table station beside a fellow poet. Drafts about dancing in slow motion and the silence of fathers flutter in a “Done” box between the poets. Around them, art festival aficionados speculate upon the feng shui properties of scrap iron sculptures and paintings of Muhammad Ali. A woman who manages a local dreamcatcher shop walks past the poetry booth to smoke a cigarette under a shade tree. She is a brunette dressed in blue canary skies, and her eyes darken behind sunglasses anointed with the dreams she refinishes in her boutique. During one break, she photographs an artist who displays black-ink-on-silk brushstrokes of mangoes. And snapshots the poets before caressing an Esse between her thumb and index finger. As the dreamcatcher tastes the cigarette, she draws the smoke deep into her diaphragm. When she exhales, Aloha Shirt Man breathes in the pale darkness, and the blue dress sighs across the dreamcatcher’s body in the way he wishes his hands could move. There is a beauty reserved for women who cover their eyes with midnight. For women who salvage the last passions from the errant dreams of aging men. All afternoon, his Poems-While-You-Wait partner types odes and sonnets that coax girls to yearn for their first day as women while Aloha Shirt Man hunts-and-pecks at poems that make women cry.
Headlining the President’s Inaugural Gala
Aloha Shirt Man waits in the wings while Valentines for Vladimir thunder through renditions of “Movin’ on Her Like a Bitch” and “The Pussy Grabber’s Blues.” He unbuttons his Tommy Bahama to the navel and spit shines his shit-kickers for luck. Tugs at his orange Speedos. The Valentines encore by setting their hair on fire to the delight of the alternative fact meisters. Aloha Shirt Man strolls into the spotlight after a thumbs up from a biker. His teleprompter scrolls the lyrics to songs he hasn’t sung since that one-night stand thirty years ago in Sugar Tit. From the disaster his roadies tabbed the Golden Showers Tour. Through the opening chords of “Another One Bites the Dust,” the singer measures his audience: pale billionaires gawping like catfish in a bucket; sex-doll wives perched at the edges of their seats with cum stains glistening around Botoxed lips; and the VEEP from flyover America sharpening his Brutus knife on a whetstone crucifix. The First Lady moans as if she were smuggling Ben Wa balls into the White House. As if her Cinderella warranty might expire with her next breath. Aloha Shirt Man introduces “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” and the President fist bumps one of his lackeys before dragging his daughter onto the dance floor to bump-and-grind to “Welcome to My Nightmare” and “Highway to Hell.” Aloha Shirt Man shreds Molly Hatchet’s disaster chestnut before blistering “Sympathy for the Devil.” When the coup mastermind shouts, “Free Bird,” the headliner says, “We’re not taking requests any more.”