John Bradley

Epistle to the Metaphysicians

All the wires, the pulleys, the engines in my head.
I am the real Surrealist, says the dummy with fetid feet.
Apollinaire is dead, proclaims Guillaume Apollinaire.

Picasso couldn’t paint my toenail, says de Chirico.
What happened in 1919 happens right now, in 1919.
All the wires, the pulleys, the engines in your head.

An artichoke dreams de Chirico dreams of an iron artichoke.
Ariadne sews the lips of her lover together with red thread.
De Chirico is seriously dead, proclaims Andre Breton.

Painters today, they don’t paint; they get pissed on paint thinner.
So says De Chirico in the Epistle to the Metaphysicians.  
All the wires, the pulleys, the engines in his head.

Henceforth I shall forge my own paintings, says de Chirico. 
Sew my lips together with red thread, says Ariadne.
Surrealism is undyingly dead, proclaims the iron artichoke. 

A dummy with a wooden head paints a wooden dummy.
A dummy with human feet paints a de Chirico.
All the wires, the pulleys, the engines in the head.
Apollinaire is still dead, proclaims Guillaume Apollinaire.

Jean Cocteau and I

Yeah, Jean Cocteau and I 
were once friends.  Didn’t I already 
tell you this story?  We were working 
in a warehouse full of coffins.

He sat down during a break 
and I could see he wasn’t wearing 
any underwear.  Only his lederhosen.  
And by his look I could tell 
he saw I wasn’t wearing
any underwear.  Only lederhosen.

He reported me to the foreman
who told me this was disrespectful
to the dead who would soon be
inhabiting those coffins.
He would have to fire me.

I wanted to say, But Cocteau, he
isn’t wearing any underwear!
Only my tongue felt like someone
had stitched it to the bottom of my mouth.

Later, I heard about an infestation
of moths flying around the warehouse. 
The toxin on their wings, if inhaled,
could sicken or kill.

When I saw Cocteau a month or two 
later, in his lederhosen, sipping absinthe 
at a café, I thanked him for getting me fired.  

You human turd, he said.  You could 
have gotten me fired and saved me
from that place.  But poets.
Poets are such great cowards.

Psyche Revived by ABB2

		We don’t need another Michelangelo.  We already had one.
		—Michele Basaldella, a robot-sculptor technician

Antonio Canova took five years to sculpt Psyche Revived 
by Cupid’s Kiss, but a robot can make a reproduction

of Canova’s statue in 270 hours, brags a human technician.
ABB2, a marble sculptor with a thirteen-foot, 

zinc-alloy robotic arm, is milling a marble sculpture 
designed by a renowned American artist, whose name 

we cannot be told but will grace the finished work.
Quantek2, another robotic sculptor, performs

a commission for a British artist, who for some
reason would also prefer to remain unnamed.

But then, some wonder, do we know the names 
of the artisans employed by the famous sculptors?

Workers who hammered and chiseled and breathed 
marble dust?  And when they were done, watched 

the master carve into the finished work his, and only his, 
name.  In the modern workshop, once the robot is done, 

humans do the rest—that is, 1% of the work.  A few
more years, robots will do even that.  If Michelangelo 

could see the spinning wrist, the diamond-tipped finger 
bore into a slab of Carrera marble, he would tear out 

his hair, says an ur-sculptor, taking pumice to the cheek 
of a woman he coaxed out of marble.  If you use a robot, 

he says, you become a machine yourself.  The only response 
from ABB2—a few whirls of its never-tiring wrist. 

Alfred Hitchcock Is Afraid

In Maine, a pair of scissors erred
with a heart, a slightly barbed heart.

Hemingway cut his private river into female 
characters, each holding a colorless, odorless,
slightly lute-shaped unknowable.

Underwater, she found it difficult to walk
in a straight line.  

Sick of eleven people for eleven hours.

The right ear went to a neurologist who could be
very loud at times.

Bifurcate the longer, the shorter July.

Dismantle, as in Marlene Dietrich.  

All of that filled 
the months in the palm of the hand.

So, a fire to go into.

I do, I couldn’t, I am almost gone.

But anyway, Alfred Hitchcock was, yes,
afraid.  Of the Buddha.  Of flamingoes.  Of anyone 

who said: Alfred Hitchcock is afraid 
of the not-yet-asleep dark.

A few words away.


You’re flickering, running through the body.  
Silence at the center running even faster.

You jumped, one day, to return to Earth.  
All the detritus and rubble saying: Don’t tell us what to do.

You’re running to a near future that may dissolve,
saying: Let me want to dissolve.

Because your breath is crooked.  
Because silence is never constantly silent.

Don’t tell me what to do, you tell the detritus,
you tell the rubble.

Let me not want the coma to want me, you say.
Running ever faster.

Incidental Music in Five Movements

They removed his leg 

                                       and he asked for a cup of artichoke tea.

They removed his leg 

                                       and he asked for a wheel of river ice.

They removed his arm 

                                       and he asked for ink and brush and paper.

They removed his arm 

                                       and he asked for a marble egg and a rubber hammer.

They removed his brain 

                                       and he said: Friend, someone skinned the moon.

John Bradley's most recent book is Hotel Montparnasse: Letters to César Vallejo (Dos Madres Press), a verse novel on the posthumous life of Vallejo. An assistant editor for Cider Press Review, Bradley frequently reviews books of poetry for Rain Taxi.
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