Bob Bradley: Rock and Roll Poet

COURT AND SPARK

 

I. SONG

 

She woos with names--Jessie Ann,
Amicalola.  Place or person, her words
unfurl song across all distance

until I sing my way back to her music.
Faithful or not, I lived my way
though towns, Sanford  and Jasper.

If I counted on those words, if I leaned
on her wooing, she changed her tune,
whispered in another tongue

at once removed, but no more distant
than what I could imagine:
Her hair, combed by long fingers of breeze;
her cheeks glimpse the faint blush of apples
in heavy autumn grass.

All along, whether by sight
or by sound, she stayed true
to the ways of her wooing.

Even now, I see enough to keep listening.
During those pauses, dawn
and dusk, it's her I look for,

and it's her I see, when Shine!
the sun calls out.  Soon ...,
the moon murmurs, Soon... .

 

II. AMO, AMAS: ANIMA, ANIMUS

 

Lime sherbert and ginger ale
in a clear, plastic bowl.

Mix, bubble, and mingle.
Languid ripples
Swirl, stirred by a plastic ladle.

Lifted, poured--punch, two
Servings, Junior High Dance.

Two quivering cups,
Two faces raise,
eyes meet, lock.

That girl's in a whirl.

That boy's in a trance.

 

III. OCTOBER

 

Hometown Saturday night,
Gym dance for the harvest moon,
I huddle in dark bleachers,

Sneak shots of bourbon,
Spot the girl called Sadie.
First slow song,
I toss off one more

Set out, eyes down,
Straw scattered

Over the hardwood floor.
Wanna dance? --all I can manage.
But her wrist is sweet

And high in my hand.
Her cheek against mine:
A cool, thawing floe.

Next morning, up early,
My jean jacket looks good on her:
The air, crisp and fast

Through the pick-up's open windows, and
The pumpkin field we pass,
Fat with orange grinning

From the thick vines and leaves.
Her blonde hair tied back,
She lights a cigarette,

Rubs her hand on my thigh
And laughs:
We've got all day.

 

 

 IV. THE FRAME

 

 

Witnessed many things.
Was clever--
Never took notes.

Liked her, so
remembered her
As a picture.

Framed everything
With her voice
And a little melancholy.

For years, she
Happened that way.
Inside. One

Mood after another.
Still hear her, that
So-sad voice--know it

Anywhere, attempting
Farewell:  Goodbye
You open wound--

You drunken
Possibility.
But that portrait

Taught me so.
I know the ways
of its subject. And reply,

"I see you--
and raise you absent--and
that," says I, "that
Will keep you."

 


VI. RUBY

 

How the fountain
Sparkles
Under town square
Streetlights.

Come closer.
Sing him
Those heart-felt
Wrong notes.

Then pull his head
To your breast--
The waterfall
Stalls

Above your bed.
And in my ear,
I swear--with water
As my witness--

The sound
Of your heart
Is a hot coal,
Burning

Close enough
To hear.


 

VII. BULLRUSHES

 

His eyes--they bring back childhood
fantasies of marriage: playing all day

and long after dark, running barefoot
on pavement and wet grass. Sleeping late,

after finding the way home, she dreams:
Tall reeds click overhead against a high sky.

Their basket drifts as if guided.
She peaks over the side. Up ahead, in a cove,

young men laugh and bathe
in the river shallows. She moves closer,

anticipating surprise and delight.
And then she remembers how she got away.

That boy who pushed her off---she tricked
him; Left him behind. Even now,

she sees him, how he watches. Standing

on the bank, facing the sun of that morning,
he lifts one hand in a brave, faint wave, while

the other trembles against his brow, shade for
his dark eyes, those windows into sadness.

 

 

VIII. BLUE

 

I call you friend, Blue,
and you turn to go.

I know--Lake always holds you close.
And Sky might take you far away, but then

Blue, you're back--in her eyes,
seeing through me.

Some colors change--trade
one hue for another.

For them, that's
the true way. As for you,

I say no. Please, Blue.
Don't change.

Stay Blue--Keep me
as close in her eyes as

she keeps you. O Blue:
At home high

in the sky,

deep in the lake,

and in her eyes.

I like that about you, Blue:
the feel you have

for what's inside.


IX. ROSE OF SHARON

 

Whenever she appears,
she charges this valley
with a lover's peril.

Flushed by mid-day
thunder, all wings hover
above her petals, until,

when she lifts her veil,
even the desolate
flowers, harsh and stark

in the clarifying light.
I wish shade for her,
that hill's shadow

a ship's sail billowed
by the same wind
that cools her--

new bloom--old meadow,
valley now colored

by her love, by her color.
Watch her, how
she bristles thorns, until

those other flowers
just want back under.
That teaches me.

Shows me danger.
Dark-eyed wonder,
You bloom out
of the dust, and all my lies
you set on fire.

 

 

X. SWEETHEART ON THE HALF-SHELL

 

She steps from the shell.
The wave pulls back, returns
to the undertow, leaving pearls
of foam ringing her ankles.

Whitecaps trouble the big sea,
but beyond them, the horizon
gazes, steadfast. Salt crystals
her lashes. Her breasts dried

by a breeze, the fine hairs glisten
on her belly and on her thighs.
How content she seems, touched
by such a glow as the sun

smiles, its light shining back
the bright news that its rays
have just kissed gold.
She gazes inland, her back

to the steadfast horizon,
as if she doesn't care
how long she stays. Or
how far she had to travel

across the miles, out of
the absolute fathoms.