Mudlark Flash No. 37 (2006)

Timothy Bradford | Oracular

Timothy Bradford’s poetry and other writings have appeared in Bombay Gin, Diagram, Forward, H_NGM_N, JBooks, No Tell Motel, Poems & Plays, Runes, and Terminus. He is the author of the introductory text for Sadhus, a photography book on the ascetics of South Asia published by Cuerpos Pintados in 2003, and his novella-in-progress, based on the history of the Vélodrome d’Hiver in Paris, garnered the support of the Koret Foundation’s Young Writer on Jewish Themes Award for 2004-2005. In the fall of 2005, he was a writer-in-residence and visiting lecturer at Stanford University.

N.B. Timothy Bradford’s first book of poems, Nomads with Samsonite, featuring the art of Julie Mehretu on the cover, is now available from BlazeVox [books] in Buffalo, New York.

MP3 Audio File LinkHear Timothy Bradford read “Oracular” here . . .
Produced by Elyse Angelo of Studiogirl in Oklahoma City.
Running time: 4 minutes. File size: 7.2 megabytes.


The other day, my youngest son in the carrier
on my back and my body warm with the rhythm
of filling, shovelful by shovelful, the third
wheelbarrow load that would go to the garden,
I thought of how some dubiously elected
world leaders would benefit from mucking stalls.
The sun was out for the first time in weeks,
a bright hydrogen-supported star burning
and roiling roughly ninety-two million miles
away, one astronomical unit, A.U., the perfect
distance for such a golden thing
as opposed to just over one’s head.
Curious the difference distance can make,
like Kokura was almost Nagasaki.

And the rains were over for the moment,
heavy rains only lightly tinged with random
radioactive particles, still buzzing
around the atmosphere from ’45 and then the ’50s
and ’60s when everyone joined in. I love
the clarity of light in the fall out
under the open wheel of sky turning bluer
unto itself until it almost turns black. And shoveling,
composting, made me think how G. Snyder’s
“Four Changes” contains enough answers
to end all the current nonsense: fossil fuel-based
transportation, an economy that insists
on cancerous growth, bread ever more of
stale rags,
tongues for wealth and power
at all costs, even war. The new manure
is hottest, and it’s best to mix it with
the scoops of sand and older, broken-down
material. And I thought of how few
of the “Four Changes” I really live.

I’m like a grub worm in the dirt, essential
to the process but unable to change it much.
My role seems set—consume, fatten,
shit, die. And the outcome of such
blindness makes me think of the other
September 11th, the one in 1973
when Pinochet’s troops took over Santiago
and marched all the socialists and communists
to the Estadio Nacional with US-financed
guns at their backs. I think it must’ve been
hard to hear the echoes of soccer fans’ cheers
amid the howls of men and women with broken
hands, arms, legs, and no confessions to give,
nothing to confess. And I doubt the CIA
had to give a lesson on the breaking of bones,
natural to the human race, almost like love.

After all, even composting is a violent
cycle, with the maggots writhing in a discarded
orange like someone’s brain on fire.
And I wonder if our monuments of education,
entertainment and infrastructure will be
used for torture someday when the country
falls, as all great countries do. Sometimes,
I can almost see the bodies of our “innocent civilians”
chained to water pipes in malls, to railings
in stadiums. Maybe some haunting Chinese
or Arabic song, or Sousa march, will echo
off the concrete as the strong arm or blow torch
or kitchen knife comes closer. “I didn’t do
anything!” the civilian may scream. That’s
the point—what we are not doing now
will hang us later.

Mais priez Dieu que tous nous vueille absouldre.
I don’t mean to be melodramatic or maudlin,
just practical. My hope is of the same cloth—
put your back or foot or finger to the manual
wheel of composting or pedaling or typing
and turn it like a prayer wheel until you feel
human again. Something will absolve you then,
and you will find rebirth in this physical sphere,
mirror of all we are blind to or faintly hear.

Copyright © Mudlark 2006
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