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Andrew Bradley


Philadelphia, PA, US

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Andrew Bradley

The floor is always as it should be
below the table above which drift
in dusty limelight your achievements.
By age six I had learned to read
in circles on my bike in the metal dusk;
by thirteen I discovered hidden boasts
of The Mass in fearful books.
It placed students like real freight
on all fours, animals given information
about singing dancing playing versus
false sentences also true of their lives.
I got over my fear of the dark at ten,
eavesdropped on alligators by eleven;
at thirteen again the world of freedom
was unimaginable amid states and labels
and students with colored pens were told
"taste not what is real." My fresh sentences
like table tennis in this silent frame bent.
What have I to hide? My achievements sing!
For seventeen years spent mostly laughing
to prepare an area for exercise to stay
in shape, a problem from the hillside glimpsed.
By eighteen patterns perfectly dictated;
by twenty-three habits carved in the wood.
Now the table abruptly levitates
and not one student can correct it.
Explain why the floor, however distant
remains below the table as it should be.

Lunch Poem


Andrew Bradley

I brush a fallen eyebrow from the page
which had drifted past the hoods of blue cars
and landed near the buxom garden.
This was in the library where the day
had bloomed beyond my spare intentions.
There was a woman digressed from her moorings
with something hellish forming in her hips;
there was a snaky curtain I was teased to enter
before a bell chimed and the dance faltered;
and there on the crowded square’s spoked paths
the appeal of peace was knocked from tree to tree
by round dimpled asses of blonde panthers in skirts.
None other than the Blue Rubber Barber joined me on a bench
and what did his briefcase signify if not death
or the possibility of semiotics invading my lunch.
Friday the thirteenth, enough to make you slit your throat,
and they will put absolutely anything in your sandwich;
only after you curse, something is added to your fate,
perhaps more essential than the sum total of your contradictions.
The plan must never be trusted, for innocence is like Eden--
a great pediment standing taller than any of us would have wished.
Just as this poem fell in my handkerchief like an unbidden tear,
pigeons will shit from high branches, forcing me to depart.

The Game is Buzkashi


Andrew Bradley

The Soviets called them dushmani--
sharp-knived bandits, shadow-cloaked in the hills.
On rare days one saw their bearded faces;
but the foes more commonly were fever
and dysentary, snakes and scorpions,
and tedium tempting one to the needle.
They were patient; their eyes had adjusted
to how the sun droops like a sightless eye
in the sky’s smoked socket. They knew the eyes
of their rivals would shrivel to the roots
in the dust of that poisonous light.
The dead were shipped home in coffins not meant
to be opened. The survivors never returned.

Our stupefaction at death stuns them
into something like amusement,
as they track the hollow steps before them
and dance across the boobie-trapped terrain.
They know anyone’s skin can be breached
with one incision at the waist and pulled
from the live captive like a dirty shirt.
And for relief the game is buzkashi,
a mad brand of polo where the riders
try to capture the headless carcass
of a goat. There are no teams and but one rule:
every laughing horseman for himself.