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Joe Bradley Aug 2017
The furrows are drying
in a woodlouse summer.
Each quiet year proves
they were inexpertly dug.

Empty eye sockets
the flowerbeds shrivel
and each tulip bulb is just
a useless *******.

Earthworks crumble into riverbanks,
the defective rock
dances bed-ward.
The clay browns the water.

In the dusty corridors of sunlight
we are the balled up
little hedgehog
late for the earthworm

and the screen-saver, bouncing
but never touching the corner.
I’ve sat dumb and still as
words dwindle on a screen.

Somewhere else hands delve
into crowns of sticky, soaked poppy.
Wet and soft they stink
of sugar.

Liberated calves with
liberated hoofs gambol in mud
and rough tongues
curl on apple picking fingers.

Slugs glisten
With fairy-tale arrogance.
Happy and fat in a giant’s
vegetable patch.

Somewhere else the smell of low-tide
isn’t a crusting of salt,
seagulls, ******* and
a reminder of torpid shallows

but profound ovulation.
Nesting puffins, shearwaters,
an ocean view cottage.
Shepard’s peachy sky.

Summer is willing. Keep calm.
Count her freckles.
I’ve walked through the forest
seen hearts in trees.

Bark grows, gold stars roll
and the guileless acolyte,
not hungry but dry
bends over a keyboard

and counts an orchard’s
wealth in slushy apples.
Mud and sand on the carpet.
Eyes sticky and red. Not black.
Joe Bradley Apr 2017
Will the world look so beautiful again
as sunset through a broken window?

With greasy hands I try
to capture youth as
a leech with a camera.

Will the light fall on her face, like it did
in the festival - like it did
when her eyes caught the sun.

I don’t like myself when I’m awake.

I, in the absence of dreams where the coaster spins
and the smell of sugared doughnuts lingers,
was the sweaty hands in hers.
Wet knees, wet boxers, wet grass
Backs to the sunset and skyline high on
plasterboard roofs, spotted chimneys. The fire and
the smell, the screech of the tubetrain -
the squirm from the darkness.
Gravel tracks, picking away the small stones
from pinkish tramlines on her thighs.
The tightness of her skirt on her knees, glitter eyed,
blush eyes, fosters cans stamped in the bush,
Bad ****, every bad smell-
the light we see is
plugholed but free from the sewer.
Sewered but free in the ocean.

Love bottler, the skinny fingered
Love bottler. I stamped on the cans.

I don’t like myself when I’m awake.
Dreaming the sickness of my thoughts.
Memory-sick, it hurts til it doesn’t.
Joe Bradley Jan 2017
The moon dangled hard through the city
and the moth-lamps hummed discord with the wetness.
The dripping stars like accidents in spilt milk,
waited for a mop.

Walking home I hallucinated men
coiled up with the smoke-stacks.
They pressed through the brickwork and
as shadows flickered in the street-light.

Though my torch cut them down like saplings
and the moon ripped off their heads like scarecrows,
each man was a sermon,
a vastness straining the borders of sight.

A tailored uselessness hung there arms,
waspish currents tore from their mouths.
Starlings turned on their cross-wind,
as messengers of some sleeveless silence.

The moonlight fell on them like whorls,
like hurricane petals, hostile
were the shopsigns, they moved backhandedly.
The gulls raged. The crows filled silence they left.

The shadows all danced to the back of my head.
And when I turned they were gone.
I'm plucking for life and a body.
That shrinks the world to their size.
Joe Bradley Sep 2016
In title it dangles.
A portentous root-vegetable.
Aggressive in its promise.
Domestic in allure.

Swelling is unavoidable.
It comes with a gut.
It comes with a harness
and a wrinkling leather belt.

I’m growling, more bear-like.
Vascular, blooded in cocktails
of babies, phone-calls, a raise.
More love, less time.

Nails are yellow-er
Weather-beaten, careworn.
It comes with her
Unconditional resignation

Poor girl, to a man, to me,
Poor boy, with skin like eggshell.
Perennial givers -
‘We must take what we want.’

I look at the back of my hand,
see if I know it
knuckles like rock, touch
light as a feather.
Joe Bradley Jul 2016

The pistons rusted, the furnace grew cold and
I lost you at the coal face.

The cat had got it

and the rest was just noise


We left the strong-men, that mean looking lion.
We pushed back the linoleum ***** of a smaller tent,
liking the rubber on our hands.

I’m after the fortune-teller telling me
on the slopes of The Bones, she will say yes.

The tent was cloaked in this rotten perfume.
So smokey, you couldn’t see your hand for your fist.
I was dealt the Queen of Pentacles,
her the Hanged Man.
I watched her nose reflect in the crystal ball.


I watched a ghost
depart the dunking stool -
a soul disintegrate
from a Romany curse.

I was dizzied by the strike of a lampshade.
those shoulders I stood on
Were yours.

I rocked as your body was taken away.


The storyteller had the world on his back!
Half Atlas, half time-snail, he was
Sticky with aphorism.

We listened to his TED Talk and when he left
the soil was fertile with prayer…

But nothing grew
til the sweat of the shovel-man
granted the earth some water.


The attendant sprits
Spoke wisdom in
basic steps.
‘One thing at a time’
A stone cracked.
‘One thing at a time’
An Aegean Daemon watched,
A genie whispered…
‘One thing at a time’


‘We’re putty.’
-Sarah stood up in class, obnoxiously-
‘Forged in volcanos, capsules of perfect evolution.
We’re of earth, of mud and rainforest and canyon.
Of the same stuff as moons, the sparkles
across a twilight ocean, the particles
caught in sunbeams. We’re the dust that worked.
We moved towards this... this beautiful complexity.
And you can be anything.’


I drew a smile in lipstick
Across the face in the mirror


Sewing Machines.
dumpf dumpf dumf
Carolina’s hands.
working the tender silk.
Dumf, dumpf, dumpf,


Ella’s lips around his *****.
David thrusted like a Spartan.
she comes


I trust, honestly,
I trust what I see with my own two eyes.
I see us infected by Delhi Belly,
the muck from Gangees is flooding the Seine,
the Hudson the Thames.
It’s like the third morning
After one day of snow.
My father’s father
Has been forgotten.


Brian awoke on another Wednesday
gratefully ******* his gums.
Unlike in his dream
he still had his pearly whites.


The dogwood fire licks his face.
Sunrise through the dense Bitterroot and
‘There is no separation,
Us and the river.’

I looked into the wisemans face.
But all I wanted was to sketch an outline,
and step in to the silhouette of
Someone else.
Joe Bradley Jun 2016
Undressed from teenage rhythm.
It’s a yearning for
The lost birds

Whose wings you rode
In talkless flight,
Til the silence got thicker
And woke up

Under the acupuncturist’s shadow.
And it needled it’s point as
Chinese wisdom, or as a well-meaning homeopath.
It dawdled all the same.

And you’re all sat right there.
Submurged. Happy as reflections.
Like an underwater photograph,
Mermaid’s song, gargles

Like the frog in my throat.
Almost Bauhaus, Picasso,
Almost watercolour, a mockingbird’s
Impression of a rock.

It was just
Undiagnosed sickness and I’m
Wading slowly into the sea with
my parents stones in my pocket.
Joe Bradley Jun 2016
We found a rock looking out over the river
And sat there until the sun went down.

Little bear, tell me our love isn’t bound
by ancient sadness, interred and bland.
Tell me that like this twilight, this brown water, this red sky,
we roll in the world’s performing heartbeat
and clasp life in our childish hands.

Look at me. Our touch is calligraphy.
And we transcribe uniqueness in each other’s skin.
We deliberate on dug out tattoos,
climbing ivy and on pruning the dead-heads,
hallucinating our springtime as scars.

We live like the reeds, the Thames willow
plunged in the pavement drinking at mud.
We turn like the catkins, the knotted branches and
ducks lined in a row. We’re tidal, in a flux
demanded by a drill sergeant moon.

This is a vision of permanence at night
and this vast imagination is an echo.
We perch upon each other,
like sparrows upon the fences of history
Roots in your dress. Your lips sowing.

Nations are being re-sketched by our pencils,
so many have died for a line in the sand.
She’s heard the screech of the *****, the robin’s call to arms
but chooses the sunrise, to roll with the seasons.
In springtime together we reap the hay, its grows again.
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