Poems By Stephen Bradford
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LONELINESS AND SOLITUDE
Tonight I felt that, at times, it pays to live
the life of a wallflower, an observer,
the man of the sidelines.
I spent an hour in Barnes and Noble
browsing, buying books with
dramatic covers by nameless authors.
I ate a dish I’d never before heard of:
a pizza topped with lettuce, hazelnut,
gorgonzola, caramelized pears. I dined outside,
with the canopy just shading my head,
the sun warm on the back of my neck,
I sat behind a pretty young woman; she laughs
and shoves at the man by her side,
a young diamond glittering on her finger.
And I wrote a poem about love –
the type you read of in the Bible, the type
I’m just starting to believe in, to understand.
I stopped to listen as a trio of
street musicians played “Why Georgia”
on guitar and cello, and I realize I know
what to do with the two dollar bill
I’d been saving in my wallet.
I ended the night in the club, not to dance, but
to feel the music wash over my body.
Tomorrow is the night to conquer the world
Tonight is the night to live and be.
VISION OF THE GOAT
Some couples quarrel like
teenagers kiss on the sofa.
Mom swears she sees a goat
in the front yard of a house on
Oak Street every time she drives past.
Dad claims he’s never seen it –
too busy rubbing his thumbs on the wheel.
They must have seen the goat together once.
Mom tapped his shoulder and pointed,
There it is!
Dad’s eyes flicked to the side
and back, like windshield wipers.
It’s just a dog.
Their shared vision of the goat
must have played out something like
that: Ever since, they bicker
about what they saw the way some couples fight
over which loves the other more.
It’s just a dog.
With horns and hooves?
At that, Dad chuckles, puts
his hand on her knee. He rests it there
and smiles until the road makes him
shift down again.
In the space between traffic lights, pit stops,
wriggling children in the back seat, they find
a second to lock fingers, to brush lips,
to wipe away the frustration of so many years of marriage
with a gentle touch to the temple.
TO PABLO NERUDA
after the film Il Postino
the worst thing a poet can do is teach
illiterate eyes to read the colors of ocean waves.
knowledge brings no toothful smiles, only sorrow
stored in bags under the jowls and on the hips.
the one you taught learned to hear an oracle’s sneeze
in an unborn’s heartbeat. he also felt the drum
of militant feet in the rhythm of a cathedral organ.
the man who reads finds nirvana in the wind blowing
against the cliffs or through the bushes. unless his toes
cling like tree roots to the stone beneath his feet (and that
you cannot teach), the same rapturous breeze will ram him
upon the point of a bayonet.
your odes adorn the banners of sages and whores
who see heroic sunset marches but are blind
to starless nights. you do not teach them (as you did not teach
that the poet hews words into a page with strokes
of an executioner’s axe. you do not teach
the price – Plath’s head in the oven, Kerouac’s
bottle, your own exile – the cost per word is
more than money.
Stephen Bradford received a BA in Creative Writing from Utah
State University. His work appeared recently in an issue of
Thick With Conviction web magazine and will soon also be
published in Obsessed With Pipework and The Storyteller.