“Camp Bowie at Night” and “Everyone Loves to Pay Less!” by Michelle Brooks


Camp Bowie at Night

Working girls huddle in front
of hotels, their burning cigarettes
punctuating the night like fireflies,
exclamation points that will be
discarded without ceremony. Sinbad’s,
“The Classiest Strip Club with the Most
Beautiful Girls,” advertises an all you can
eat buffet. It used to be a Red Lobster.
My parents took my sister and me there
to celebrate birthdays. I longed for a hot
pink sequined tube top, sandals that turned
into roller skates when you pushed a button
on the cork-lined heel, a black silk robe to wear
while listening to Grover Washington Jr’s
Winelight and drinking champagne. It’s all
different now. And yet the desire only morphs,
never satiated. I stop at Walgreens, hear glass
shatter somewhere in the night. When I return
to my car, I see pieces of a pipe strewn
about like confetti. It only held smoke
so half-full or half-empty doesn’t apply.

Everyone Loves to Pay Less!

Everything is discounted now,
and I browse the almost empty
shelves, as if some treasure might
present itself. I pick up a generic
black high heel and am filled
with grief, as if someone I knew
died instead of an old store in a strip
mall, one I thought would be open
forever if I cared to pay it a visit.
I wonder what will happen to the shoes
that don’t sell, if someone will wear
them as she wonders where to go
for lunch or if it’s time to leave
for work, while the heartbreaking world
dies and resurrects around her feet.

Michelle Brooks has published two collections of poetry, Make Yourself Small, (Backwaters Press), and Pretty in A Hard Way (Finishing Line Press) and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy, (Storylandia Press). Her poetry collection, The Pretend Life, was published by Atmosphere Press in February 2020. Her fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and photographs have appeared in the Iowa Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Threepenny Review, Hotel Amerika, and elsewhere