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John Bradley Poems

Into and Out of This World: An Interview with César Vallejo’s Death Mask

Q.   Is it true you worked in the back of a print shop repairing oboes?
A.   Listen, if it weren’t for my intestines, I wouldn’t be here.

Q.   What is mesmerism and why do you keep rubbing a spoon around your navel?
A.   On the radio, the Atlantic is saying, I want to be inside you, male person, female person.

Q.   What did the inspector pull out of your mouth?
A.   When I first drew a woman in a cow, my mother killed it.

Q.   How do you prefer to cleanse the brain?
A.   Dust from Neptune can be found in one out of eight babies.

Q.   Who read your tea leaves on that street where you carried a box of books on your head in the rain?
A.   The mail slot on the fifth floor keeps panting.

Q.   Is it true you fit a kitchen into your comb into your typewriter into your coffin?
A.   You move your tongue a certain way and all the lights in the world go out.

Q.   Narrate your passport photograph using ash and a bit of spittle.
A.   An elephant being called an ant being called a bathtub made of lead.

Q.   But that’s not what your bodyguard told us.
A.   To the streetsweeper, everything looks like a poem.

Q.   Didn’t the inspector’s wife say she never met you?
A.   One night we live long, one night nobody can see the line from louse to movie house, from philtrum to film studies, from myopia to cinematopia.

Q.   Didn’t you once tell [inaudible] that memory lives in the belly of a termite?
A.   There are portals all around us that lead into and out of this world.

Q.   Because you consider this an interrogation, not a fugue for two voices?
A.   I hate luck, I hate dead batteries, I hate the body at a séance in Norway swirling round and round.

Q.   Why the Café du Monde in bathrobe and fuzzy slippers and hairnet?
A.   Nobody born, nobody unborn.

Q.   What did Carl Jung tell you on January 19?
A.   A bowl of somatic cabbage soup, not far from a dog’s nonverbal region.

Q.   A cough, you once said, can alter history. Please explain, using green circles and squares.
A.   Rake, each morning, the sand in your bed each night.

Q.   Are you, in any way, attached to the [inaudible] moon with unseen wire?
A.   I am a little bit inside you, male person, female person.

Q.   But the inspector . . .
A.   I never look at a cat or dog and not see bacteria in outer space.

Q.   But the inspector . . .
A.   I’ve always had a fear of gauze and the like. Gauze stuffed in a red chile slipped into a bamboo flute hidden in a chimney flue.

Q.   I was once asked by a monk, What is the color of Vallejo’s soul?
A.   Go ahead and step on your mother’s grave, your feet tangled in tin sardines.

Q.   Tell us more about your spiritual practice of gargling with gasoline.
A.   There are portals all around that lead into and out of this world.

Four Blind Translations of René Char

1. “Pyrénées,” Or Peer into My Knees

Maintain me with the grand abuses
All summer in your fevers
Fables of your clear derriere.

Rain that violates the avalanche
The detritus left by René!

To the troubadours, my bad friends
I wish you whiteouts in the evening
With your two royal persimmons.

Ah! The nearness of the inexorable
Where you aim for the suffering of pears,
Where you vent on the clear glass
With a kindness in your vacant eyeballs.

2. “Corail,” Or Corral the Coral

The idiot alarm, you look at me
With no rest of egg yolk or herb in my song.
Ill children that open the gate
Will attend no lily school.
No empathy in the jam filled with excellent light.
In my trousers lived an insipid surprise.
The French bond with space and jealousy
And say an austere endive is always present.

3. “Hermétiques Ouvriers ,” Or Hermaphroditic Hors D’oeuvres

Hermaphroditic hors d’oeuvres
In a garage with mounded silence,
Mimi giving you offense
At the Society of the Vitreous!
Mimi in the bush I embrace
With some fearful mutt!
Part Two: I intend to implore your grace
in the poor defense of rugby,
Fugitives divine a torch,
Agony demands a biscuit.
Dan in the automobile, if you exist,
The foal on fire deja vu.
The looming air tastes of mint
And a tambourine demands more space.
Already the torrent in the pines,
Mother leaking maintenance over France.

4. “La verite vous rendra libres,” Or Verily You Render Your Books

Inside your lump, your night;
Chewing lettuce, you pour your regards
Into a plank with your fatigue,
Into pea soup you pour your salt,
Murmurs enter where celery chews upon the mended,
Detain me, O Marie!

How to Mind Control a Chain-Link Fence

There’s a video of your laying down under the mind
control of nineteen babies.   Push off.   A creature from
Dublin cannot be contained so easily in London.

Give yourself beeping bells, ringing heart, boiling horns.
Sometimes baby food is an effective dopamine-delivery
song in leg and arm.   Keep capitalism and ripped clothing

as far as possible from the brain
, says Imogene Heap,
as scientists in San Jose pore over the remains of San Jose.
Prepare for algorithmic targeting of Dublin, says

an intimacy coordinator in Abu Dhabi.   Don’t
be afraid of cow sounds
, says your knee ligaments.
Ephemerality can make you happy.   I sometimes wonder

if you look foolish talking to a musical psychologist
with a tear in your pants.   Once it’s over, my wife
will test an alarm for loose chairs above your head.

A kind of creepy, joyous, addictive magic.   Push off.
A creature from London cannot be so easily contained
in Dublin.   I want to be forever jaunty, wired, behemoth.

Zero passing through your neural pathways.   A small
window in a six-foot solid wall.   Keep the literal as far as
possible from the brain.   Swing your little hips, alchemy.

How to Pluck a (French) Cigar Puff

Kneel close to the irritating ground, the pulpy collapse, the spooky,

whistling grammar.   Don’t fret when your sterilized nondominant hand

will say, The beginning of the universe.   Unclasp your love of Esperanto,

free-floating from gaping mouths.   Most songbirds erase national boundaries

with each puff.   Once you’ve caught one, on each envelope write down

the location and date in Netflix English.   Your dirty secret: Joseph Cotton

in the 4-degrees Celsius refrigerator in the Museum of Modern Art.   Your

dirty secret: Federico Fellini, furious and constipated, in a net stretched

between Spain and Brazil.   At a safe distance, unclasp your fist.   Drunk

on the infinite menu ventriloquists keep at 35,000 feet.   Tidbits of subtitles

and dead sound on your captured tongue.   Hell, yeah, you will say onscreen

today, and in 1967, irritable and quick to bite.   So the universe begins.

John Bradley is the author of Spontaneous Mummification, which won the 2019 James Tate Poetry Prize, awarded by SurVision Books.
This issue was guest-edited by John Olson.
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