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Timothy Bradford

Difficult to figure, like a town named "Moore"
with a yellow happy face painted on its gunmetal gray
water tower and just slightly fewer pregnant high schoolers
than Trans Ams and Camaros. That was their hometown.
And on a street like the edge of a postage stamp lost
behind the coffee pot for months, torn, and ticked
with food particles, they lived.

Once, I dreamt I was there of my own accord
and glad to see the overweight
disco queen—my aunt—who taught me how to read
when not washing her own children's “foul mouths” out
with the pink foaming action of Mr. Bubble.
It was always Saturday Night Fever
on Queensbury, and The Bee-Gees
sang with a flying whine from their seemingly
swollen throats while my aunt and I tried
desperately to catch the wasp in an old mason jar.
It never landed on the record player’s dust-covered
dust cover, and when it stung her, I knew she would die.

I can't remember whether this dream
was before she actually died or not. Definitely after
I learned the meaning of "orgasm" and "fellatio"
from her nurse's encyclopedia and fancied myself,
through that moment of study, older and wiser
though confused like I'd just read the directions
to becoming a 33rd degree Mason or for making tiramisù.
Still, knowledge is everything, no matter
when it comes. Like my aunt, a nurse, knew all along
the prescription drugs she abused
would harden her lungs to the consistency
of some water-logged bracket fungus on a tree.

Of course, no one knew then her husband,
like Hephaestus with his polio limp and affections
of wrought iron, would die watching ESPN while sucking
the last bits of life from oxygen tubes in his nose
and cigarettes out of a green and blue package
suggesting the sea. I'll never forget
how well-dressed his undertakers were as they
straightened the stiffening body to the gurney's
horizontal cut, the man in a charcoal suit
and dress shirt with cufflinks, the woman in a sheer
white blouse that seemed luminescent and left her
cleavage tastefully visible. And now their eldest son
dreams inside the same clapboard house
of becoming lupine while the hungry mouth of a tumor
devours his insides. And their youngest son
holds down his house's front porch
with sacks of aluminum empties. I'd prefer
to pronounce the above as "aluminium"
just for the sake of distance.

We are maternal blood relatives, and try as I might
to uncover my special, royal, paternal dispensation
from suicide, arson, sodomy, bestiality, and that simple
daftness of the jay-walking kind,
I cannot. And lately, after certain
trying hours with myself or my two-year-old son,
I've been thinking of washing my own
mouth out with soap, abusing
my wife's prescription veterinary products,
or sucking on straw, gravel, or my lip until some gist
of what seems like life comes out. Then I take
a long walk around our property with its edges
frayed like those of an old postcard’s from
a distant country showing pigs prized for their ability
to sniff out truffles from the earth,
and I say, "Merde!" three times real loud,
and it is done. I belong to no one.

Timothy Bradford

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