The Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize


Two poems from Bradford Gray Telford's Perfect Hurt

followed by a note on the author


Melia azederach


When we cut back
your mother's chinaberry tree
she didn't quite cooperate,
didn't go peacefully.

Storms were coming in.
A storm was rolling out.
I Googled her.
I like to know about

a thing before I do
it harm. Pride-of-India,
Texas Umbrella, Persian Lilac,
Bead Tree and Japonica

a name for every home.
A crime for every alias.
I clicked her yellow fruit –
rock-hard, poisonous

cut her leaflets – toothed, blue-green
and toxic
– dragged along her bark –
a curative though deadly,
pasted the buff, hallmark

fissures wrenched tight
across her purpled torso
elongating her pain,
a late El Greco

(though each spring she'd burst
in drooping lilac panicles).
Your mother wasn't well.
Sport utility vehicles,

two of them next door
plus a brand new fence,
the storm, her terrible cough,
impeccable evidence

that the dead limb-
one of three in the trunk's braid –
would cleave off easy
(wrong – again). I was afraid.

Lyric and decorative
foreign-born Melia,
a transplanted Ruth,
invasive, diligent Medea

wild as the bow saw bit
into her soft back.
We got her down,
her snapping twigs black

with your blood and my blood,
the sheeted sweat, the flecks of skin,
a ritual we'd do once
and be done with and then

you watched me jump.
I crushed her spine.
We left her by the road.
What's yours is mine

and what is mine may well
be yours. I think. We're both givers.
It was getting late.
We looked down: ants, carpenters

sifting their wreckage,
dirt, dried pith, broken phloem,
pale larvae clamped tight in black jaws.
There – there was the poem.




The Conversation

We were drinking Diet Coke and talking about our dream house.
Inside: Birdseye maple, concrete floors, pin-spots, his-and-his and his-and-his.
Outside: rot, weeds, jays on a soon-to-be-downed wire:
design within nature within desire and desire.

I drew a box and you drew a box and we had two boxes.
My father always said build more house than you think you can afford.
You like color and comfort and nothing too weird.
I like hundreds of rooms – big, empty as Texas.

We kept at it with crayons and rulers and colored papers.
I showed you mine: stick figures, smiley faces, lots of big orange hair.
You said you were frightened of the pet purple monitor lizards.
You kissed me and we made love for an hour.

Then you drew a bedroom with ivory walls, bark trim, one spectacular window.
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.


Bradford Gray Telford was educated at Princeton and Columbia and has published work in many journals including the Yale Review, Hayden’s 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.

"Melia 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,




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