Michael Brockley

Twenty-five Years after Dobbs v Jackson in a Church on the Indiana-Michigan State Line

The mothers arrive to leave their babies in the No-Questions-Asked cradles during the hours before the possums start prowling among the last tomato vines behind the chapel. I study the young girls from a darkened window in the sacristy. The license plates above the bumpers of  swaybacked Cavaliers and Mustangs read Fort Wayne. Elkhart. Detroit. The fathers never appear. The driver, an older woman, a sister, or a girl friend, accompanies the mother to a crib. Madonnas so slight I imagine they still might play with dolls. Some of them women without the practice of being a girl. I leave white blankets decorated with pink or blue flowers in the mangers the carpenters from our congregation build during Advent. As well as pillows sewn by the local Girl Scouts. Every mother weeps when she lowers her infant into an unknown future. Some  mothers wail as they return to the getaway car, dark and rumbling beneath the canopy of ash trees being strangled by emerald borers. In the deep of night, the babies sleep through their abandonment. Black and brown and white. Some with pale cauls over their eyes and seizures misfiring in their brains. I baptize each of them with a name taken from whatever unholy novel I read while at my post. Hermione. Homer. Saint Kateri. I sing to the small children as I carry them to empty bassinets. Mixing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” with “To Love Somebody” and “Amazing Grace.” The night car will pull out of the parking lot, sighing at the prospects of a long interstate deliverance back to a city named for a mad general. I’ve quit counting the surrendered babies I’ve welcomed. The 3 a. m. lullabies I’ve sung. After I was hired to pastor the believers who gather here each Sunday, I threw the cradles’ “No Vacancy” signs in the dumpster with the shepherd’s staffs from our final live Nativity. We will need a dozen more mangers next year. 

To Victoria Leigh Soto,

On Dr. Seuss’ birthday, the first-grade teachers at the school where we work bobby-pin red-and-white striped stovepipe hats to our hair, and the cafeteria serves green eggs and ham. Hand-printed stories about rock emperor penguins are taped to the lockers along the walls outside the elementary classrooms beside Mother’s Day acrostics. No one speaks of your martyrdom. Or of the pastor in Charleston. Or of the nine-year old girl in that Tucson Safeway parking lot. In America, we forget the honorable names. Now, once a month, after the fire and tornado drills, we rehearse kneeling behind chairs. All of us can find the blind spots and hideaway crannies in any room we enter. We practice silence. And even the kindergartners know to daub their faces with the blood of a slain friend. The tetherball partner. The kid who brought a toad to show-and-tell. We learn by heart the gravity of camouflaging ourselves with gore. We gave up on teaching anybody how to live. 

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 Shorts Magazine, The Parliament Literary Journal, Book of Matches, and Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan. Poems are forthcoming in Gargoyle, Syncopation Literary Journal, and Jasper’s Folly Poetry Journal.