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Sample Poems by John Bradley

Oh Trinity, Where Would We Be Without You


My name is [Unreadable]. The letters
carry small traces of July 16, 1945
in their marrow. As does your name.

If you think you're a bomb, please do not
get on my passenger jet; do not sit
in the seat next to me; do not sneeze,
hiccup, burp, suddenly blow your nose.

I asked my mother where she was
that morning when the desert darkness
turned inside out. She can remember
later that day eating a bowl of pistachio
ice cream, then settling onto the floor,
her legs up on her bed, to nap.

There are good bombs and bad bombs,
smart bombs and dumb bombs.
Bombs that can count backwards
from ten in any language. Bombs
that can study your face and tell you,
in seconds, if you will live, or die
of internal bleeding.

I'm not a bomb because I have a freckle
on my right wrist and a missing wisdom
tooth and nearsightedness. The only time
I've ever exploded was when
a kidney stone meteored
into my right side.

Her eyes were closed, but as she drifted
above the earth she could see
someone in a white dress
shirt with sweat under his armpits.
Then his head lit up, his face
contorted, and light-hot, unstoppable
light-erupted from his head. Became his head.

Below the glow, she could still make out
his shirt, the pale buttons a quivering liquid.

My name is [Blurred]. I am not, nor have I
ever been, a bomb, in body or verb, nor have I ever
knowingly befriended one. Though sometimes
on a hot afternoon when everything looks
about to ignite, I think we are all made of nothing
but sand and fissile light.



Everything That Follows: Tsutomu Yamaguchi


I, unsure in tongue, can only tell you
the told. How a little boy on the trolley
not a boy but a whirligig, ignited himself,

the air, the light, the flames. Everything
that followed followed. Ruptured
eardrum. Burned skin. All the way home

I had to forget so many things. But my
tongue, it couldn't stop remembering.
I told a man many spindles wide

what had happened. And then it happened
again: unblinkered light spilling
from the fat man, across the room

down the stairwell, past the last threshold.
Into brain and bone. That same tensile light
poisoning everything that followed.

Once again I survived, in tongue
and told. Blame Anteros. Blame Eros.
Blame my soiled daughter

who says I passed the poison on.
To wife. To son and daughter.
Now you. Who feed your fear

and pass the poison on.




Atomic Age Lullaby: As Told by General Leslie R. Groves, August, 1945


There was a sky
where there should be a sky.

There was a tree
looking much like a tree.

There was a fish
swimming something like a fish.

Fat Man and Little Boy
waddled over to the pond.

Little Boy clapped his hands.

The fish swam through the sky
and the sky slipped through
the gills of the fish.

That's nothing, said Fat Man.
Watch this. And he loudly
burped.

The sky blinked.
The tree blackened.
The fish no longer
resembled a fish.

What did you do
that for?
said Little Boy.

Fat Man shrugged.

The fish hissed.
The tree wheezed.
The sky no longer looked
liked a sky.


Fat Man and Little Boy
waddled on.




In the House of Sleep: An Interview with Kitty Oppenheimer


Q. Could you state your name?
A. For you will cover your eyes when Sleep casts off her robes.

Q. Tell us what makes you laugh.
A. At the end of every desire, the ruins of Sleep.

Q. Could you sing us a little of "My Radiation Baby (My Teenage Fallout Queen)"?
A. Many children has Sleep, and I have unraveled them all.

Q. What would you like to say about the color blue?
A. Sleep lived amongst us for many years, in many a liver.

Q. Describe what you were doing on July 16, 5:29:45 a.m.
A. Sleep in the slumbering rain, rain in my tumbling sleep.

Q. Is it true you can recite Walden while blindfolded underwater?
A. Sleep is a tree with candles for roots.

Q. What were you doing at 5:29:46?
A. A mound of salted hair, yet barefoot wanders Sleep.

Q. At 5:29:47?
A. To fear not the opening, not the closing hole in the House of Sleep.

Q. If Georgia O'Keeffe boiled a crow, who would know?
A. Many children has Sleep, and not one clothed in flesh.

Q. Describe what your husband's like when he's not tinkering with his gadget.
A. For Sleep can live on pine needles and water.

Q. At 5:29:48?
A. Therefore take my body, for it belongs to Sleep.

Q. Maybe I should come back at another time.
A. Tell Sleep I served a wakeful prophet, and badly did I serve.

Q. Perhaps you're asleep right now?
A. A doorknob growing heavy with the weightlessness of Sleep.