Wednesday 20 April 2016

2 Poems by John Bradley

(Erasure Poem from Wang An-Shih's "Self-Portrait," As Translated by David Hinton)

            all                                 cinnabar-and-azure

human                                                                          dust.

Things                                      anyone can know.

            I am                                                     I was    long ago.

First Time

The first time I handled a snake, I was bitten, fell
asleep for three days, and died. My father threw
a bucket of water on me and yelled, Twenty five
push-ups, now. My mother filed her fingernails
and said to my father, What are you doing, Jack?
What are you trying to do? 

My sister picked up the long brown snake, let it
dangle from her neck, and set it loose in the backyard
by the cesspool. She came back in and said,
John’s not dead. He just doesn’t want to deliver
his newspapers. That’s all. My brother put on
my pajamas and slippers and waved his hands
over his head: I’ve come back from Heaven! Back
from Hell! Touch my stinky flesh. For only
twenty-five cents! 

I spat three times, put my shirt on inside out, and delivered
my newspapers. Never said a word to Vinny or Micky
or anyone about that first time. 


John Bradley is the author of six books of poetry, the most recent And Thereby Everything , Longhouse Books, which tells the real story of Billy the Kid and Henry Ford. He teaches at Northern Illinois University. 

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