John Bradley

The Amazing Edible Man

At night I can hear the clavicle sigh. My father thought
everyone wanted to live in Purgatory Falls, but I never did
learn how to play the bassoon in the bathtub. Those blue flakes
in her teeth? She once bit into the word ultramarine. Didn’t
I see your hand wandering about in the Illustrated Guide to All
Possible Skies
? In the zeppelin, we used to take turns dressing up
like a question mark and scare each other. Water will sometimes
wander out of the glass if not taught to obey the first law
of gratitude. Why is it tentacles surround us whenever you’re
in the room?
she said. For centuries, soil has lived in peace
with the spoon. I was advised to know at all times exactly
where the equator had been sighted. The Amazing Edible Man—
no one wanted to be the first to bite into his head. While
we were gone, someone forgot how to salivate. True or Slightly
False: My mother once made my sister walk around the house
with the Bible balanced on her head
. Painting your feet
with clay will not banish all desire. He makes a living burying
laptops and cellphones and forgetting where he was born.
She married a sycamore; her parents urinate on the geranium.
Yet there you were, in rubber boots, peering through the Judas
hole. I won’t tarnish the moon; the moon won’t tarnish your
teeth. Each time the oboe turned green, I wrote a rondelet
for the rain. That’s when I measured her armpit, all thirty-three
dimensions. At night I can hear the stars throb. And all the time
I thought I was alone inside that immense rubber Godzilla suit.

Self-Portrait with Spanish Flu, Edvard Munch, 1919

What I want to say, says the open
mouth. Emptied eyes
the color of the flame-soaked

wall. The wicker-chair-bound
body the weight
of a burnt feather

on the tongue. I know
how to silence silence
says the unspoken,

drifting from the mouth
ajar. It wasn’t
intentional. The word

seeking dominion
over the world.
Each day

pass clouds reading
our disquiet
, says the quiet
in the fever-eaten eyes.

I’m surprised,
says inertia, deep
down in the legs,

the heart can move,
each day, still move
this worm-eaten world

I Learned This in Yakutsk

You can hear Hemingway’s severed ear in the pantry
snoring. In the raspberry preserves. In the stiff breadsticks.

Martha Stewart places a strand of pasta across Papa’s
forehead. I learned this in Yakutsk, she says, from a frozen fish.

The camera won’t let us view the mobile sterilization crew.
Their blunt shovels. Unlaced boots. Their tar-stained gloves.

The shaman with burn holes in his coat stays inside the TV.
He sips tea made from mice droppings and eats moon roe.

Someone has hammered nails through my shoe sole. Long,
thick nails with rusty points to cleave the softest flesh.

Coltrane, playing “Bringing in the Sheaves” on his licorice
sax, disappears every twenty seconds directly into his body.

J. Edgar Hoover, on headphones, listens to Mother Theresa
wash her feet. The sound of trickling water makes him swoon.

I remember Papa saying, Roving cave men with brain cancer
don’t hurt anybody. As long as you’re stupid.
Red vowels flutter.

John Bradley's work has appeared in Calibanonline, the Diagram, Hotel Amerika, Lake Effect, Otoliths, and other journals. His most recent book is Everything in Motion, Everything at Rest (Dos Madres). He frequently reviews books of poetry for Rain Taxi.
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