HomeAboutMastheadJoin POW ListserveDonateArchive
John Bradley


Whence It All Began 

Once,  when there was only one word for people, and it was the same word as for the earth, I was human, with a body for a body, skin for skin, teeth for teeth, and hair.  Hair everywhere.  After I left a place where I had slept, hair grew from the soil.  But I was not afraid of Hair, just of the things Hair wanted me to do.  Hair told me to climb to the top of a hollow tree and jump.  Hair told me that I would fly—all the vibrating little hairs vibrating, carrying me on the wind.  Hair told me to make love with my cousin the poplar.  I knew this was wrong, to make the trees have children.  They would walk the land day and night on two legs saying, “Am I a tree?  Am I a human?  Am I a human tree?”  

So I tore out my hair.  I tore it out in handfuls.  I threw it on the ground.  I sprinkled salt on it.  Hair growled.  Hair wept.  Hair promised never to flagellate Hair with my hair.  I stood there, looking at Hair dying in the grass.  I knew Hair spole lies.  Hair would never change because Hair was Hair.  I ran away.  Hair fould me again.  But only some of Hair could tolerate me.  The rest burned when it tried to root in me, leaving upon my skin scars the shape of crescent moons.  Now I am naked, nearly nearly naked, Hair hiding in my armpit and groin and crotch.  And they ask me, those last survivors of Hair, what I cannot ever know--”Are you hair?  Are you human?  Are you human hair?”

Parable of Wood and Hole

I was born in a watery hole in the woods, although my mother claims it was an island of woods surrounded by water.  My father is napping in front of the Vikings game right now, so he’s unavailable for consultation.  Not that he’d recall.  The knee would be a terrible place to give birth from, what with the hard shell and the constant bending and occasional kneeling. 

Just yesterday I knelt when trying to expel a lumpy bump of air caught in my throat, another bad place to birth from.  A baby born from the knee would constantly cry to go outside and worm its way up a tree, and then cry to be lowered down, and then cry to be hoisted up for the wind to tease.  Some sharks prefer tea and honey to blood, and some give birth to feathers. 

After a few hours, the knee aches and shakes, and pretty soon little blue-gray bugs start coming our and there’s a war going on in a country where homes resemble garages.  Some of these garage-homes hide weapons made from broken electric can openers and discarded typewriters.  The enemy knows that to break the back you attack the knee, thus the waterous holes in the trees.

Parable of the White House Replica 

I can still remember the day a cloud of ammonia covered the White House and I was called in to pull the President out of the bathtub.  I eat a boiled egg and an unboiled egg each day to heighten my balance.  It must be difficult to have to walk through the White House naked, even if they let you keep on your socks and shoes.  I couldn’t fifind anyone in the presidential bathtub, nothing except the mannequin leg once worn by Martha Washington. 

It was a good thing they had a spare copy of the President down the basement.  All they had to do was send a few volts through him and he was waving his hand and signing his name to everything within reach.  Sometimes I add a dash of powdered reindeer antlers to my eggs.  Then I start singing “Don’t Fence Me In.”  You can still see some of the presidential signature, if you look carefully, behind my right ear.  Sort of looks like it says Killallamoeba.

Then the President’s wife, or someone dressed like her, snuck in without paying to see the exhibit of the broccoli replica of the White House.  It was no bigger than the harp used by Henry Kissenger when he played “Who Do You Love?” with Bo Diddley.  Sometimes I eat just the boiled egg, but I make sure I eat a raw eggs within the next forty-eight hours.  I never wash behind my ears.  I can’t bear to erase our disappearing American history.

                    -from You Don't Know What You Don't Know 

Purchase Bradley's books here