poems from Bradford Gray Telford's Perfect Hurt
by a note on the author
we cut back
your mother's chinaberry tree
she didn't quite cooperate,
didn't go peacefully.
were coming in.
A storm was rolling out.
I Googled her.
I like to know about
thing before I do
it harm. Pride-of-India,
Texas Umbrella, Persian Lilac,
Bead Tree and Japonica
name for every home.
A crime for every alias.
I clicked her yellow fruit
her leaflets toothed, blue-green
and toxic dragged along her bark
a curative though deadly,
pasted the buff, hallmark
across her purpled torso
elongating her pain,
a late El Greco
each spring she'd burst
in drooping lilac panicles).
Your mother wasn't well.
Sport utility vehicles,
of them next door
plus a brand new fence,
the storm, her terrible cough,
the dead limb-
one of three in the trunk's braid
would cleave off easy
(wrong again). I was afraid.
a transplanted Ruth,
invasive, diligent Medea
as the bow saw bit
into her soft back.
We got her down,
her snapping twigs black
your blood and my blood,
the sheeted sweat, the flecks of skin,
a ritual we'd do once
and be done with and then
watched me jump.
I crushed her spine.
We left her by the road.
What's yours is mine
what is mine may well
be yours. I think. We're both givers.
It was getting late.
We looked down: ants, carpenters
dirt, dried pith, broken phloem,
pale larvae clamped tight in black jaws.
There there was the poem.
were drinking Diet Coke and talking about our dream house.
Inside: Birdseye maple, concrete floors, pin-spots, his-and-his
Outside: rot, weeds, jays on a soon-to-be-downed wire:
design within nature within desire and desire.
drew a box and you drew a box and we had two boxes.
My father always said build more house than you think you
You like color and comfort and nothing too weird.
I like hundreds of rooms big, empty as Texas.
kept at it with crayons and rulers and colored papers.
I showed you mine: stick figures, smiley faces, lots of big
You said you were frightened of the pet purple monitor lizards.
You kissed me and we made love for an hour.
you drew a bedroom with ivory walls, bark trim, one spectacular
Ten steel clocks that showed the season and the minute.
Maybe I would quit smoking. Maybe you would win the Lotto.
We closed our eyes and made our bed and slept in it.
Gray Telford was educated at Princeton and Columbia and has
published work in many journals including the Yale Review,
Haydens Ferry Review, Pleiades, Laurel
Review, and Bloom. A doctoral candidate in literature
and creative writing at the University of Houston, Telford recently
won the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize for his work on the
poetry of Geneviève Huttin.
azederach " first appeared in Phantasmagoria, and
"The Conversation" first appeared in Hawai'i Review.eed
more, please let me know. Further information
can also be found on my author's website, www.bruceberger.net