Mudlark Flash No. 57 (2010)

Three Poems by Philip Brooks
from The New Melancholiac’s Guide

Should Your Gadget Jam

No device in need of fixing 
can fail to find a home 
inside the repair shop 
just around the corner. 

You’ve noticed the place, its 
windows blocked by stacks
of faulty toasters, hunched typewriters, 
addled adding machines and paralyzed fans. 
Covered in dust and flies from Caesar’s time.

Speak softly should you enter.
Know that nothing has ever been solved 
by the bearded old man in skullcap
eating an egg salad sandwich at his workbench. 

But simply to carry
a damaged mechanism 
out of one’s home, to be 
announced by bells tinkling 
above a door and then
to set one’s burden down 
upon a counter as he stands
and wipes his hands on his pants
is a blessing.

“I’ll get to it before the world ends,” he wheezes.
“That’ll be good,” you reply.
“May your burdens grow lighter,” he says.

Indeed, to stride into bright afternoon—  
half a numbered tag slipped into a pocket—
yields the same quiet satisfaction  
as the well-attended funeral  
of an elderly acquaintance.

Postcards from Home

Here’s one of the man selling oranges and rabbits from his car trunk. 
Another shows the blind horse meandering the bone market in a straw hat. 
A striking view of the city’s smokestacks, bridges and spires 
as seen through your cracked window. 
Soon, after you’ve gone, we’ll print one of you sipping coffee 
oblivious to the dirty-faced urchin picking your pocket.
Don’t worry, we’ll hang him later. 
I know, I know: you feel worse than a stranger. 
You check your phrase book, pronounce the words as written 
only to have shopkeepers, prostitutes, police and schoolchildren
laugh and point and repeat what you said, slapping their thighs, 
doubling over, helpless, hanging onto one another for support 
as they guffaw, wiping the tears. 
Yes, your meat has been consistently overcooked 
and dust floats in your every glass of water. 
There is —we know! we know!— a stink 
of rotten flowers following you like a cloud. 
For all this we sincerely apologize. 
Still, you must remember: you’re our only tourist. 
We’d do anything for you.


Old people
recall pale flocks
of melancholiacs
coughing in the park.
Half the city
writing elegies.
Government men
everyone’s violin
on Sundays.
Then came
other measures,
a crackdown—
sad movies,
and records
snatched up,
martial naptime declared.
No speaking.
The disease 
But the last fevered souls
kept penciling
cryptic notes
on the blue 
slips provided.
Placed them
on bedside tables
for the pretty nurse
to read.
In the morning,
when she threw open
the tall windows,
they scattered
like loose petals. 

Philip Brooks grew up in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park “as an aspiring melancholiac. To that end,” he attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop as a fiction writer. Several of his stories appeared in Gordon Lish’s “defunct but really swell” The Quarterly, others in Willow Springs and The Kenyon Review. Some of his poems have appeared in recent postings at He lives in Ohio with his wife, Balinda, and young son, Felix. 

Copyright © Mudlark 2010
Mudlark Flashes | Home Page