luminous

“The Luminous Mysteries”, “Retain this Copy for Your Records” and “It’s Later Than You Think”

In Poetry by Michelle Brooks

The Luminous Mysteries

For the better part of an hour, I sit

in an examination room, my nose

dripping onto the butcher paper,

having feigned interest in the fake

breast handed to me by a doctor

at this urgent care. I had only hoped

for a quick shot of antibiotics to make

me well once more. After the door

shuts, I drape my red coat over my legs,

the coat I bought at a thrift store in Grosse

Pointe, only a few miles from this decimated

city I loved upon first sight. The doctor

instructed me to practice on this model

until he returned with a script. He takes

my word for my condition, and grabs the breast

from my hand, telling me a girl can never be

too careful, and self-exams are the first line

of defense. Don’t ask me how I ended up

here. I’ve never been good at directions.

Retain this Copy for Your Records

I am a room after everyone has left.

Emptied out, you are free to imagine

anything could happen. There’s a song

playing, the sound so faint that you

can’t tell where it’s coming from

and the vending machines offer all

the candies you remember from childhood –

Fifth Avenue Bars, Milky Ways, Whatchamacallits.

In front of all this proffered sweetness, you

wonder if this is what dying feels like. You

buy a candy bar, sit down on the floor, and surrender

to the ghosts because it’s all that you can think to do.

It’s Later than You Think

There is the reflection of a rainbow

in the Rent to Own window, and puddles

have formed in the holes dotting the parking

lot, the water streaked with rainbows made

of gasoline, and I try to remember what I need

for tomorrow’s work party as I roam the Dollar

General. I grab a bag of pretzels and think,

This is my dinner and all the while, other lives

play out around me. A teenager tells her friend,

I can’t believe Halloween is tomorrow, and I don’t

know what I’m going to be. I wasn’t anything last

year. A man asks his wife, Do you think the rain

has stopped? She doesn’t look at him, only

says, I sure fucking hope so. It’s depressing.

After loading my basket with paper plates

adorned with skulls and witches, I get in line,

looking down while the young couple in front of me

buys a pregnancy test and a bag of Cheetos,

the woman counting out change from a tiny

purse embossed with stars. The cashier, a middle-aged

woman with Bitch tattooed on her neck asks me

if I found what I needed. I nod and say yes, thinking

does anyone? The cashier leans close, warns me

that a man has been following me around the aisles

and asks if I want security to walk me out. I thank her,

saying I’ll make a run for it, as I gather up my bags.

The rain has started again. I glance back, relieved

no one is following me, noticing the sign festooned

over the door, Spooky Savings Inside, as if I wouldn’t know.

About the Author

Michelle Brooks

Michelle Brooks has published a collection of poetry, Make Yourself Small, (Backwaters Press), and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy, (Storylandia Press). A native Texan, she has spent much of her adult life in Detroit.