“Fireflies” and other poems by Christine A. Brooks


house of beauty

just three houses down 
from my 
pale green house
a magnificent dark red house
sat 
regally
on a throne of both beauty &
possibility
on a street that never quite
fit in
with the rest of the city

it was a dead end, 
in a time & place undefined by class 
middle, less than that,
but 
all otherwise, the same
—more or less

except #44

it was the only house on the street
with a fence around the front

how rich they must be, I thought
to be able to have a fence
in the front

a small white sign with
black writing hung & 
swung from a black post
behind that fence
with scrolled letters

Willie Mae’s
House of Beauty

my mother would send me
if I was lucky, with 2 quarters
to buy us each a candy bar
that Willie Mae
would stock on a small shelf
in her makeshift waiting room
in her basement

I would look at myself in her big
mirror that sat in front of her 2
chairs,
that spun around

soaking in the smells of hair products, so different than my
own & listen to the women
talk about their lives
that somehow existed
outside
the House of Beauty

their hair so curly & beautiful
made my own
brown, flat hair feel lifeless
and 
vanilla

she would explain to me why
she could not make mine, look
like theirs,
but still,
every time I walked down her
backstairs
quarters in hand
I dreamed that she could make
my hair kinky & shiny
while I talked & twirled 

because
in the House of Beauty
anything was possible

or so I wanted to believe.



nothingness

I was drunk when they came
for me,
to keep me safe from myself,
he said 
but that was a goddam
lie & everyone knew it

broken knuckles, bruised 
beaten, wrapped tightly but
the silicone pink bracelet twisted
and rubbed under my cast

pushed, taunted & reminded
that I was no one
no one that could fight
no one that could win
and
no one that mattered much
to anyone 

neighbors peeked out, 
porch lights flicked on
I could see them 
from my place, 
face down on the hood of the
dirty police car
click click
went the handcuffs

it was summer not so long ago
really, but a lifetime for
her and many
but that didn’t matter either

nothing did 
or ever would again
not in any way that mattered
anymore



Newbury Street


my Papa smoked a pipe &
 watched hockey with the sound
off, in another
room
from where I played    quietly
with my Lincoln Logs

Nana, who was supposed to die
long before I came around,
had the doctors been right about
her throat cancer

sat in the corner, surrounded by various
clocks 
that ticked on

knitting & clucking trying to keep her
mouth moist somehow since her body
stopped making saliva 

she made gawumpki’s
he gave butterfly kisses &

we lived with them one
summer, so very long
ago 

most days I had a bellyache

nervous, she’s just nervous
my mother would say

    dismissing my pain, probably
to dismiss her own

it didn’t matter though &
eventually we moved, but my
bellyache stayed 


A Date with the Lord   
  
the morning I met the 
Lord was exactly as I 
imagined
it would
be. 
 
the air,
    both, briny & candied
plump with salt from the
Irish Sea & 
sweet from the
River Liffey
tickled as I inhaled
but that did not stop me from
breathing in
    life.
 
 
some, even most,
— maybe,
would not find it
pleasant or pleasing, but
for me it was
perfection,
on an early summer Dublin morning,
before businesses opened, but not before business
happened, 
 
    with horse drawn carriages & guitar players
& those offering blessings of good fortune,
wishing me well,
after several donations. 
 
I paid the price,
   I owed
maybe even, a little more than that
which pleased us both
  —equally. 
 
God bless you said more than money could buy
   maybe
I’m hungry, she said, although
she looked neither the kind
 of person to offer a blessing that had the chance of
sticking, or someone whose dinner plate was
empty often
 
but, I had seen her before,
believed her then, that blessing 
so, I dropped another heavy coin into her
   cup, clanging
& shuffled along Dawson Street
because,
     it mattered not
 
I had a date with the Lord after-all & had no time to
 wonder
if the woman I never thought I would see again
—but did
could grant the wish offered up to
Eire.
 
finally, I had come upon the Mansion House
more than what
it seemed, initially
set back without the warmth
& cool of thick mossy blades
of emerald patchwork
 
still though, warm enough
welcoming enough, although no
mat said so, and the giant
brass, doorbell that rang to the
unknown, still, did
not dissuade me from my
date with the Lord. 
 
I had an appointment
    after all. 
 
my clothes, comfortable but
not my finest, reminded 
me, without knowledge or
preconceived notions that
   I was,
home
in a place that accepted me
as is. 
 
and in that moment,
those moments, 
as we sipped tea
& the outside came to life 
I was
     —happy.



Fireflies

I recall them, 
as beacons of hope & faith 
 from my childhood

buzzing and banging,
gently
 against the glass walls of my
Nana’s mason jar
lighting the way, selflessly
 just for a moment, a heartbeat 
 tick between the tock
contained. 

I unscrew the lid,
 set them free, and 
watch
them blink into the hush
of the late summer’s night. 

I recall them,
these memories 

  not as the embers
they were - hovering, clanking
 against the mental box I
 put them in, 
 As they feverishly try to burn
  down 
  my construction paper 
childhood. 
 

I recall them, as 
 — fireflies


"Fireflies" and other poems are © Christine A. Brooks

Christine A. Brooks is a graduate of Western New England University with her B.A. in Literature and her M.F.A. from Bay Path University in Creative Nonfiction. A series of poems, The Ugly Five, are in the 2018 summer issue of Door Is A Jar Magazine and her poem, The Writer, is in the June, 2018 issue of The Cabinet of Heed Literary Magazine. Three poems, Puff, Sister and Grapes are in the 5th issue of The Mystic Blue Review. Her vignette, Finding God, is in in the December 2018 issue of Riggwelter Press, and her series of vignettes, Small Packages, was named a semifinalist at Gazing Grain Press in August 2018. Her essay, What I Learned from Being Accidentally Celibate for Five Years was recently featured in HuffPost, MSN, Yahoo and Daily Mail UK. Her book of poems, The Cigar Box Poems, is due out in late 2019.


Christine A. Brooks links