You're Only Hurting Yourself
By Michelle Brooks
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At the Molotov Cocktail, we serve
Irish Car Bombs all day, and our
napkins are rags soaked in kerosene.
Disasters unspool on our high-definition
televisions in surround sound – floods,
riots, mass shootings. Take your pick.
This Throwback Thursday, watch
Watts explode into flames at the bar.
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you’d like to see. You can be anyone
here- lady killer, femme fatale, innocent
bystander. No one is a victim here. This
place only has so much room, and we
reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.
Actual Persons, Living or Dead
First, turn on the lights.
Ghosts drift toward shadows.
Use the sin of omission as if
it was a life raft, and you can’t
swim. I can swim, of course.
As a child I swam in tanks,
throwing rocks before getting
into the water to scatter the snakes
while my mother doled out advice
like, If you fall out of a boat, float.
You can float forever. I never learned
how to float, always defaulting to treading
water. You can do that for a long time.
Last Year’s Fortunes
Better ask twice than lose yourself once
This is the moment before anyone speaks,
Before someone tells me to sit anywhere
I like, before anyone asks me, Do you know
what you know what you want yet?
If the table moves, move with it
Food never matters as much as the low
lights, the exotic items on the menu
that no one ever orders. The choices are all
before me. The waitress tells me how she
once played with her shadow on a sidewalk,
a forbidden activity that draws out the dead
One is not sleeping, does not mean they are awake
I notice the shadow of a fish in the bowl
by the entrance. How much larger the fish
appears casting a darkness wherever it swims
Everything now will come your way
I linger over the plates, delaying the moment where
the bill arrives, the damage that I have done tallied.
All of last year’s fortunes in my pocket, I add
to the collection. Strange how the truth erases
itself as I try to record it, a soldier that evades capture,
leaving me with tiny strips of confetti that prove nothing.
Michelle Brooks has published a collection of poetry, Make Yourself Small, (Backwaters Press), and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy, (Storylandia Press). Her poetry collection, Flamethrower, will be published by Latte Press in 2019. A native Texan, she has spent much of her adult life in Detroit.