Mudlark Flash No. 85 (2014)

Cruel Relish by Philip Brooks


We’d planned to cast 
a statue in bronze 
to commemorate
the terrible history of 
spilled milk. But now 
you’ve arrived
and when you stand 
just so, you seem 
the perfect embodiment. 
See how the pigeons flock?
Landing on your shoulders,
perched atop your head.
Finally, we can stop our crying.

The Criminal Element

No telling who’ll be biting come nightfall.
A certain element will ply you with 
French cigarettes and honey pastries. 
Do not hear their promises or taste
their threats. Musicians tune up
mandolins and fiddles. Plenty of 
heartache being the result. 
You may be convinced to dance 
and throw your hat. 
A perfectly good fedora, lost. 
In back alleys, drifters beg you 
to roll the dice for small potatoes 
and magic beans. Their devoted wives 
cook the winnings over open fires, 
spitting into the steaming pots 
with what can only be described as 
cruel relish. Dearest midnight moth, 
it might be best to remain in your cocoon.

In the Arab Quarter

The dancer’s undulating navel 
caresses a sweet and sticky date 
begging to be eaten 
by a worthy supplicant.
Cumin and saffron. 
Scented oils. 
Miles of bright silk.
Children roll hoops through dusty streets.
No one's seen any of it. All is 
the hearsay of barroom paintings. 
Sworn testimony of pathological liars 
dressed in pith helmets and khaki. 
Impressions gathered from the rantings 
of daydreamers gone mad in the shimmering 
heat of the library’s reading room
where cats sleep in squares of sunlight.

Truly Excellent Meat

Have I mentioned my uncle? He’s a butcher
but considers himself a sculptor of sorts. 
The very tender should avoid his shop
as he struggles to reckon the difference 
between a hog on a hook and a child in short pants. 
The way he looks at both 
has gotten him into trouble.
He tells us he’s trimmed away his mind’s bad parts 
and fed them to the moon. He’s invested in fancy charts 
revealing the secrets of chops, steaks, filets, 
and the organs considered edible.
Uncle devotes himself to study of these maps late at night 
after washing down the chopping block, sweeping the floors,
and frying something thick for his dinner.
He taps a finger on his temple and winks to reassure us.
But really: who cares if he grins like a devil when he sharpens his knives? 
The man sells the freshest meat in town.
And we love meat.

“Like so many of this nation’s writers of poetry,” Philip Brooks says, “he can lately be found drinking coffee and eating a baked good in Brooklyn, New York. You can spot him. He’s the guy scribbling in a notebook rather than typing on a laptop. His poems have appeared previously in Mudlark, as well as in the Beloit Poetry Journal, The Kenyon Review, Willow Springs, The Quarterly, and various internet spots.”

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