By Michael Brockley
An Incomplete History of the Colours That Never Became Red (from Western Motel, Edward Hopper) Mrs. Hopper waits for me in the Burgundy Room of the Western Motel. She will greet me while sitting on the corner at the foot of the bed, her satchel filled with Rorschach test manuals unpacked beside the front door. Her sleeveless maroon dress remains the same as the one she has worn for our past encounters in America’s automats and hotel lobbies. We have found fleeting havens in a bar beneath a Phillies cigar sign, in a tall house by a railroad track and, once, in a room by the sea. Tears of sweat bead her shoulders and upper arms. She eschews makeup but has dyed her hair from the choices found on the fool’s gold spectrum. As is our custom, we will pull two chairs to the picture window to witness the sunset. I will speculate on the message hidden among the dusty hieroglyphics that zigzag across the passenger door of the green sedan parked outside our room. An Oldsmobile, its presence as constant as a chaperone. As darkness settles in the desert, she will challenge me to reclaim my spirit creature from the ink blots she spreads across her mattress until I am forced to choose between a coyote and a bear. Mrs. Hopper knows the history of the colours that never became red. Magenta. Plum. Purple. Once she kept an atlas of cities named for the shades that are not quite red in her traveling bags. Cherryville and Pink. Before the Oldsmobile’s time. Before the ink blot beasts. She prefers that I call her Jo, but in my unguarded moments, I revert to Mrs. Hopper. Or Josephine. She no longer has any interest in knowing what I am called. Lois and Rose (Years after You Fled) Years after you fled from my Zittenstein monster into the dead-end alley behind Schlichte’s grocery store, I dream of Rose’s rag doll. I’m a hermit in the depths of a pandemic. A disheveled man with a henchman’s beard who hoards kokopeli face masks. As a kid, I played the horrible brother and the bed-wetter son who murdered his mother. What frightened you into that mad dash into a cul de sac? My sour reputation? My horny breath? I skipped out long before our hometown deputy shot his toe off during a mandatory gun-safety convocation at the middle school where your children went after you set aside dolls. But I bought two packs of baseball cards that afternoon. And unwrapped Jimmy Wynn and Leon Wagner. The Toy Cannon and someone’s guardian angel. I lost my baseball cards when my family moved to 7th Street from the country. I had a crush on one of you. That burr-cut freak in a madras shirt who mumbled Rolling Stones lyrics while boys named Stanley and Jerome crooned “Yeah yeah yeah,” to you. Face boys in white chinos and fruit-loop button-downs. Last night at the end of the American plague, one of you drove a pink Mustang past my house. One of you idled at the stop sign while both of you harmonised on Nowhere Man. I was fired from the shambling ogre gig the same day the BMV issued my license. I have until midnight to make up a dream for the wild horses we’ll ride. These days I’m more of a werewolf than a beast of burden. February Dog Walk with Snow Light You walk your shih tzu/poodle through the core of the night. All day snow and sleet have dappled the lawn with hibernal shades of white, and, in the darkness, the snow light with its pale mantle guides your dog and you along the paths of the day’s earlier treks. She leaves small scallops in the ghost trails of your past dog walks, stopping by the scents of a pinecone and a windblown wrapper from Taco Bell. Urinates along the fencerow where your neighbours planted tomatoes in June. Around you the snow muffles the short month’s night, much as your deaf dog and your dulled ears cannot hear the leaves and sticks that must crunch beneath your weight. You hear a large dog bark in excitement or alarm across the street but not a dog’s nails clicking on the frozen ground. As the two of you wander past the red maple, you notice for the first time that its roots girdle the maturing tree while your shih tzu/poodle noses the rabbit scat on the south side of the yard. From the rabbit with the lame leg you startle from its shelter behind the compost heap at the end of your morning strolls. Crossing cat and possum tracks, you recognise your passage through the new snow by the way your heels drag through every fourth step. Your dog defecates among the mounds you raised in preparation for a butterfly garden this spring. The shih tzu/poodle takes no notice of the songs you hum, and you cannot hear cars brake at the four-way stop at the corner of your block. You will not hear the songbird’s mating calls of April. It has been another silent winter. The bare silver maple holds a hornet’s nest in its upper branches, but there are no remnants of the swooping presence of robins or finches. Your dog swallows a scattering of rabbit pellets then turns toward the backdoor, eager for her arthritis cookie treat. You have grown familiar with the harbingers of silent springs.
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 Pine Cone Review, Parliament Literary Journal, and Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan. Poems are forthcoming in Last Stanza Poetry Journal and Lion and Lilac.
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