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John Bradley
John Bradley is the author of Terrestrial Music (Curbstone Press), War on Words (BlazeVox), and You Don't Know What You Don't Know (CSU Poetry Center). He's edited Atomic Ghost: Poets Respond to the Nuclear Age (Coffee House Press), and Eating the Pure Light: Homage to Thomas McGrath (The Backwaters Press). His play, Ahmerica, will be produced by The Third Onion this year in DeKalb, Illinois. He is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Art Fellowships and a Pushcart Prize. He teaches at Northern Illinois University.

"The ceaseless accumulation of things, places, people, events, dreams, and fears give rise to the unique space in which Bradley's poems exist."
-Abby Travis, Rain Taxi

Confessions of a Ladder Rider

John Bradley
I'm riding my ladder down the street, one of those fast lightweight folding ladders, standing on it a few steps from the bottom, wearing my white riding helmet. She's crossing the street, her blouse aswirl with STOP and YIELD and RAILROAD CROSSING signs. When she sees me coming at her, she freezes. In order to avoid hitting her, I swerve to the left, assuming she'll continue across the street. But she doesn't. The ladder catches her with the center of the wooden X right on her chin, and she flops down on her back like a sack of wilted celery. I let out, just for a second, a nervous laugh. I knew she wasn't hurt, and the sight of her going down like that tickled me, the way silent film turns fall into farce. I immediately try to apologize, but my muffled giggling only makes things worse. There had been a rash of hit and run ladder riders knocking down pedestrians, and she must have thought I was one of them. I would have felt the same way if I were her. I rip off my helmet; she faints. Did she see the mark of the folding ladder on my forehead? Had she eaten celery for lunch? Why wasn't she wearing her pedestrian body armor? O, Buster Keaton, why did you ever have to invent the motorized ladder? I fasten my helmet strap, climb back aboard my vehicle, and fade into the flow of traffic, just another outlaw ladder rider.

Parable of the Indeterminate Cave

I'm living in a sealed cave with Madonna. At least she tells me her name is Madonna, but I'm not so sure. She never wants to have sex, though I've tried many times to subtly suggest it. I'll tell her that an oak chair was left out in the rain, and she'll say that wet wooden chairs make her depressed. I'll say that a glazed doughnut is rolling down a hill, and she'll say that doughnuts make her feel fat. I'll say that a child is sleeping with his head on the stretched skin of a drum, and she'll tell me that drum skins make her perspire. There is one thing Madonna does like, though. She likes it when I read to her. Sometimes I read her knuckles to her, though I usually read her toes. I'll read until I start to get bored, and then I'll change a word in the story. I'll say, "Father stroked his seersucker mustache," and she'll yell at me. "That's not right," she'll say. "Father stroked his cerise mustache!"

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