2021
Pushcart Prize Nominee

MICHAEL BROCKLEY

A Buddy Bench Dedication at the Donald J. Trump Primary Academy

The school custodian turned the covfefe-colored bench to face the swing sets, the one the local bully shoved fourth grade girls off of at the beginning of the year. The stench from a tomato cannery the next town over hovers over the dais; its cloud pesters the principal, the mayor and a work-release prisoner on loan from the county jail. Beyond the playground fence, a Peterbilt rig carrying Spotted boars to slaughter rumbles past an Amish gelding pulling a driverless buggy. The bench was manufactured from recycled beer can tabs in a city named for a mad general. Now it will serve as a seat for kids who want to join a dodgeball match or a game of Bang, Bang, You’re Dead. “America the Beautiful” skips and shrieks from an invisible speaker. Recorded by the wife of the sole survivor from the massacre at Bowling Green. The mayor mumbles his speech about uplifted boots and second amendment heroes into a dead mic. Then taps his watch as the principal adjusts a Save the Children scarf around her neck. She signals to the office until “You’ve Got a Friend” groans from the hidden speaker. Near the bench, the work-release prisoner burnishes a gray name plaque with the sleeve of his orange jumpsuit and pockets the off-brand screwdriver he’d used to tighten a few bolts. He’s the only one to notice a bucket of white tadpoles beneath the seat. An omen he’ll ask his wife to interpret the next time she visits. 

Michael Brockley is a retired school psychologist who lives in Muncie, Indiana where he is looking for a dog to adopt. His poems have appeared in Woolgathering Review, The Pine Cone Review, and Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan. Poems are forthcoming in The Last Stanza Poetry Journal and Flying Island.