Literary as hell.

Poetry by Chris Brooks

(For M)

A Perfect Stranger and Other Remembrances


I remember an imperfect night in a Tokyo bar

Crowded with Marines

And exotic women wearing flannel and black leather

Hoping for God knows what

My best friend screwing a woman with bad teeth in the only bathroom

Causing a line out the door

And much desperation

We missed the last train to Yokosuka

Had to sleep on the train station sidewalk

Waking to the buzz of a Tokyo morning

Gazing up meekly into the bewildered eyes

Of an old woman selling magazines and trinkets

To weary morning commuters 


I wish I could remember the face of that fleeting woman

Surely ten years my senior

If it is possible to fall in love in a single embrace

Dancing to “You’re So Vain”

In a sailor bar in Memphis


I remember tipping a buck to some rough hombre wearing white gloves

The kind chauffeurs wear

Just to take a piss

In a rancid Tijuana cantina bathtub urinal

Every wall decorated beautifully

With hand painted Saltillo tiles

Just like the ones celebrities have in their bathrooms

In Santa Fe


I wish I could remember more about my grandfather

Who from whiskey and work lived hard and died harder

But all I remember is the oily smell of his tools

The sweet scent of blooming magnolias in the Arkansas heat

And his smoky subterranean voice

Picking out songs on an old Gibson

The voice of Johnny Cash

Train songs of Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers


I’d like to forget the time I tried with a friend

To hike across the Mexicali borderline to the Sea of Cortez

Nothing but a backpack full of beer

And a pocket full of dreams

We were of course turned back by a driving rain

A hive of pickpockets

And youthful lust

Not getting any farther than the first whorehouse bar


Sometimes I pretend that I remember my great, great grandfather

Captured at Cassville during Sherman’s march to the sea

Shot by a guard at Rock Island POW camp

Suffering from dysentery he was an easy target

Down at a fetid privy near the perimeter fence kill line

A world away from his sweet Mississippi home


And I’ll never forget the cosmic grace

Of sharing my soul with a perfect stranger

Over coffee

And other unmentionable things



NASA Wanted to Blow up the Moon to Impress the Russians



But it’s still here

A full moon as beautiful as it was before nuclear weapons

I see it now

Brilliant and “bigger than Dallas”

As I drive by overgrazed pastures

With thickets of rusting red cedars

From a summer of extraordinary drought and wildfire


And past a signpost advertising “Bob White Quail for sale”

A once sleepy Canadian River bottom farm town visible in the distance

Permanently awakened by a colossal illuminated casino sign

Herds of weary drilling men in white pick-ups race past

Riding ass all the way to fracking boom sites

In Hennessey




There is the occasional thought

That writing this all down while driving in traffic

May not be a recipe for longevity

Friends have died along this highway for lesser infractions


I’ve seen dozens of full moons like this one

On countless morning commutes

To a soulless job in the big city

Working on third cup of black coffee

Radio off

Trying like hell to keep attentive

To insignificant wonders along this lonely highway



I saw two satellites meet in the Tulsa sky


Blinking the way satellites blink

The sun reflecting off their solar panels

As they twist through space

One from the east

One from the west


Then they descended


Drifting between the stars

A thousand feathers falling

Disappearing into the Tulsa night


I followed them

Walking for three hours

Through dimly lit back alleys

Along old sycamore-lined streets

Until I heard the call of a whippoorwill

Surely out of place amongst the concrete city

If it weren’t for a deserted, overgrown field

Next to the railroad tracks


That’s where I found a path of feathers


I followed them, picking up each one

Putting them in my pocket

Over a bridge

Across the tracks

To the Brady Arts District

Shimmering in newfound splendor


I followed the path

Collar up

Hands in pockets

Caressing the soft feathers


As I passed by a familiar pub I saw them

Sitting in a corner

Trying to be inconspicuous

But illuminated

Sparkly and bright

Their feathers touching

They were wondering how could it be

That they were part of this cosmic miracle

For a brief moment in time



Bathtub Bukowski


There is something embarrassing

About a man

Fuzzy with the apprehension

Of approaching middle age

Naked in a hot bathtub

Reading Bukowski


The room otherwise dark

Except for burning candles




A cabin at the water’s edge

The cold lake below

Tourists never come here in winter


On hands and knees

Praying to some god

Please tell me how

To wash the shampoo

out of my hair


Only a woman would know such things


There is something embarrassing

About a man

Naked in a hot bathtub

Reading Bukowski


To hell with it!


Visions of . . .

Clear trout streams

Sensuous feathers

The turquoise sky

And the retched man I left standing

On a country highway

As he leaned into the driving sleet

Holding a sign that said “Jesus”



For Arnie

Pho 69


I had lunch the other day with some chain-smoking “rocket scientist”

In a Vietnamese noodle house in Oklahoma City


In a whisper he told me he used to play in a rockabilly band

In Los Angeles in the seventies


His eyes went far away

And I could tell he was back there

In some forgotten sunset strip nightclub

Living a dream long since abandoned

After 40 years designing the most ominous combat airplanes

This world has ever seen


Then he pushed his bowl of noodles aside

Saying food was pretty much a formality these days

Then he stepped outside for a cigarette


I thought about the name of this place

And how it didn’t translate very well



Chris writes from small town Oklahoma, amid clusters of prairie and blackjack oak thickets, where he lives with his wife and daughter.

1 Comment

  1. Candice Gardner


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