Barnstable, MA by Jesse Bradley




The sonogram will not offer what elements will weave the sinew. I trace the outline of the child lightly, the bevel caressing the photo paper without scratching or peeling it. I hold the sonogram away, closer to the light. I shut my eyes, count ten Mississippi, open them. The bison's head is cocked slightly to the right, wondering where it last left its stomach. 




Today, the bison kicks me in the ear as it roams across the concave plain. I cup my hands, scan where it may clomp to next. She shifts before the accuracy of my prediction is determined. 




I squint to find the burnt spoons in his irises. The edge of my thumb blots his nose, lips, and chin; his forehead is a shell waiting for a hammer. I ask my mother what he was like. Her thumb grinds spark wheel against stone.




I don't want to bottle the boy's and the mother's cries, but I don't know what to do with the air between panels. In here, she is a nautilus. 


I cringe when the bevels caress against the grain. She never has time to reinforce the shell before extraction comes; the wall isn't wearing her well but he doesn't care.




I cannot hear the bison. Her fingers wander through my hair, curling it here and there into crooked peaks. She assures me the bison needs rest now and again. I remember the emptiness of the bison's stomach from the sonogram. I imagine myself carving a new stomach out of the air, then grafting it onto the empty space. 




There is no migration pattern, I tell his snore. I ask the sonogram on the nightstand who taught your father that gestation is a fallow prairie; you will not grow up to become worn. 



Her back is a clumsy needle against the wallpaper. She's too terrified to notice the slight migration patterns left behind by her shoulder blades, the base of her skull. Each time he flings open my mouth, I study his forearms for how they define love. 


She dreams of cutting him in half. I would read the rings around his bones, extract every why, store them in the grains. I want to homeschool the violence out of his son if they survive him. I want to homeschool the violence out of the next boy, and the next, and the next. 




I trace scales into couch cushions, press my ear against them. I trace scales into the upholstery of front seat we used as a forge, press my ear against it. I trace scales into our first picture, press my ear against it; I want to hear the bison when you are not around, what elements will make the sinew that will knit muscle to bone. 


I hold up the sonogram close to the light blub, stare.




My mother tears open a pack of disposable lighters, lines some of them up on the kitchen counter. She lines some of disposable lighters up on the dresser across her bed. She lines some of the disposable lighters on the nightstand next to my bed. She straightens my left arm, clamps my wrist until my left hand stiffens, slaps the top of it. The throbbing warns me not to touch the lighters, to not corrupt the spark wheel's words. 




The wince carves her face when the bison stampedes across the concave plain. Ice cubes evaporate when exposed to the proximity of her forehead. 


I place my hand on her stomach. I ask the telegraph wire of my palms to transmit -.-. .- .-.. -- / -.. --- .-- -./-.-. .- .-.. -- / -.. --- .-- -./-.-. .- .-.. -- / -.. --- .-- -.





The storm brews. I cannot see whether or when lightning will pierce the plane. There is a gurgle confusing itself as thundercrack. You cannot soothe panic when the land you roam is a waiting maw. 




When I slam him against the wall, the wallpaper sucks out his father's name, his grandfather's name. When I slam him against the wall again, the cracks shape into tree trunk and branches. 


When he sleeps, I stare at the fledgling arboreum. I stare at the edges of my palm, waiting to grow rows and rows of saw teeth. 




I gouge the volleyball. It never asked to grow up to become a wheezy moon; my mother says I have my father's hands. 


She picks up one of the lighters rimming the round patio table, holds it to her ear, flicks the spark wheel.




I pin her against the wall, careful not to puncture her wrist. I want her to want her blood truant. I want her to want my blood in her mouth.


"This is not how you make something new." My father words needle my tongue. I let the tautness of her lower lip between my teeth respond. 




Jesse Bradley is the author of the graphic poetry collection, The Bones of Us (YesYes Books, 2014), with art by Adam Scott Mazer. He lives at iheartfailure.net.