John Bradley

Home | The Last Issue | Submissions | Achieve: 2004-2009 | Essays

work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Key Satch(el), The Prose Poem: an International Journal, and others. His work can also be found in anthologies such as The best of the Prose poem (White Pine Press) and No Boundaries: Prose poems by 24 American Poets (Tupelo). He is the author of Love-in-idleness, which won the Wahington Prize. Two books are forthcoming this year: Terrestrial Music (Curbstone), a poetry collection, and War on Words, (Blaze Vox), a collection of correspondence with Tomaz Salamun. He has edited Atomic Ghost: Poets Respond to the Nuclear Age, (coffee House) and Learning to Glow: A Nuclear Reader (University of Arizona Press). Mr. Bradley has also received a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council.

The Man in the Flux

    "There's something missing, some little piece of the flux," said
the man in the flux.

    "Maybe a tiny piece of you is what's missing," said the flux.

    "Or maybe the missing piece is thinking right now that I'm
missing," said the man.

    "Or maybe you're missing and yet not missing, just like me,"
said the flux, who was being sucked, even as it spoke, back into the

The Wet Man Is Not Afraid of the Rain

He looks around him, behind him, and then lowers his voice, so low I can
hardly hear him over the murmur in the restaurant. "The President," he
says, brushing away an invisible speck on the table, "has started eating
ants.  Black ants at his desk in the Oval Office.  His doctors are
worried, but they're afraid to tell him to stop." "Why?"  I wonder
aloud.  "Because then he'd do it secretly, and they'd have no idea how
many ants he's eating."

He's in the shower when they come for him.  He isn't surprised.  He knew
they could hear everything he said, and probably what he thought.
"You'll let me wear my vest?"  the naked man says, part question,
part demand, to the well-clothed men.  No expression, no reply from the
men in quiet suits who quietly handcuff him.  "I've got a cold and I
need my vest."  When his escorts lead him out of his house, the local
news crew politely shoots the nude terrorist only from the waist up.

"Where are your clothes?"  shouts one reporter. "Did you contaminate
them?"  "What sort of biotoxin were you preparing in your shower?"
shouts another. "Ask the President," yells the naked man as he's hustled
into a waiting van.  "Ask him why he's eating black ants.  Ask him why .
. . ."

"What's this story about a naked guy in Duluth getting arrested when
he's in the shower?"  the President asks.  "A security risk, Mr.
President."  "Well," says the President, brushing away an invisible
speck on his desk, "next time make sure they wrap a towel around his
private parts before they let the press do their thing.  A naked dude
don't look very, you know, terrorist-like." "Yes, Mr. President."

"And what's with all the ants on his chest?" the President says, bending
over the newspaper photo.  "Is he infected?"   His assistant furrows his
brow: "We have reason to believe, sir, that he was training them to be
suicide attack ants.  There's no telling what those wackos out there are
up to, Mr. President."

"Well, when the lab's done with them ants, have them brought to me.
Pronto. To, you know, interrogate 'em."

"Roger that, sir."

"And don't forget the tabasco."

Don't Blame the Chalk.  I'd Rather Be Servicing Mr. & Mrs. Caulk

Mr. & Mrs. Caulk
    take a short walk, come home, and seal their lips with white
thread.  The weatherperson feels a cocoon coming.  "I feel so calm in
cotton," says someone you and I don't (yet) know.  I've lost my globe,
the black and tan one I've never owned.  Gravity washes its transparent
hands.  Mrs. Caulk, dropping the handwrought ceramic bowl on her foot,
yowls, denaturing her and Mr. Caulk's oligarchic cat.


Mr. & Mrs. Caulk
    make a frightful dog with a piece of chalk.  I would not argue
while sipping slippery bark tea.  You can turn on some TVs while you're
not even home.  Pleasure wears socks that sag below the ankles.  The dog
bites Mrs. Caulk and she spites Mr. Caulk.  You can see why I carry a
small monkey with a spare key.  Guido tows a howitzer made of balsa
wood.  The dog chews on Bolivia and the Florida Keys.


Mr. Caulk
    goes about the house looking for Mrs. Caulk.  A jar of black
olives can let you see in the dark.  The room whirls around so fast it
can't recall kiss or slap.  "This must be the year of the sick sofa,"
says Mrs. Caulk.  Entropy makes me horny.  I let Mrs. Caulk know I'm
wondering what's moldering below her cleanly feet, and she flips on the
garbage disposal so she can privately weep.


Mrs. Caulk
    takes off her top on the back porch as it's too hot and no one's
around.  I feel sorry for Mr. Caulk, in the basement with a tuning fork.
The table looks clean and strong, but can it hold a trombone?  I lift a
sandwich above my head to check for leaks.  Eros hints an egg sandwich
turns her on.  A pimple poses unavoidable questions.  Mr. Caulk grows
into his hat, which scares Mrs. Caulk, which causes her toes to tingle.


Mr. & Mrs. Caulk
    fall asleep on the front lawn.  No one measures how little they
grow, how long they shrink.  I lithograph Mr. Caulk's unposed nose; it
can't hurt.  A house made of dirt isn't necessarily dirty.  Molina
thinks songs mutate into pie, shoe, bra.  I shave Mrs. Caulks' legs
while she's still asleep; I'm of age.  That speck of blood behind the
door.  It makes me wonder if I'll have to come back here and do this all
once more.