I’m a horrible juggler when it comes to creative projects. I get fascinated with one particular project and if I don’t finish it in a set time, I get bored and move on to something else.

I wrote a prequel to Bodies Made of Smoke in late 2011 (and here’s a sample from it). Reading it over in June, I realized that I hated the voice that’s in it. (It was written before we did some revisions to Bodies). I set out to write a different version, not so much the same tone, but at least capturing the mystique of the novella. I liked how the rewritten version turned out quite a bit. Plain Wrap actually published a part of it on its quarterly journal called Quarter. You can read three poems from it here (and read the rest of the issue – Chad Redden killed it with the editing on this).


I’ve commented a lot through poetry on gun violence, especially when blamed on the inane, like violent video games. In 2007, I wrote a response poem to the shootings at Virginia Tech (and I apologize for the lack of capital i’s – that’s just how I rolled back then)

director’s cut

when i was nine, my mom was dope.
while other parents thought PG-13 movies
too much for little ears and eyes,
she let me shimmy up to the screen
and bask in the radiance of R-rated movies.

she also knew i loved robots
so lo and behold straight
from the video store, encased
in its plastic ark, there it was: Robocop.

but my mom went from dope
to mom again, when she noticed
during the scene where Boddecker’s gang
used automatic weapons
to chisel Officer Murphy’s body into a stump
that i laughed like hyenas on crystal meth.

in that moment, she saw i crossed the line
between fantasy and reality, where if that level
of violence sent me into giggling fits,
then she’d needed to yank me back to the other side
and chide me for my lack of humanity.

“but mom,” i pleaded, “i only laughed
because it was so over the top”
and it was.

no matter.  she didn’t want me
to grow up loving the ultra violence
and let my bad genes take control
over her good parental science.

seven years later, i wore black,
listened to Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson,
played Doom whenever i could
and sucked at it.

i got used to tattoos of bull’s-eyes
covering my self-esteem
as everyone with a Charisma above 13
took potshots at every fault of mine
they could gleam.

never at all did i think of making a list,
checking it twice, decide who’s been naughty or nice
then deputize myself as the Wrath of God
and sweep the halls of Colonial High
with brooms of Uzis and nines,
cleansing the campus of those
who would not believe in me.

when kids like i used to be
load their emotions into their index fingers
so their “fuck you’s” resonate in spent shells
too many strap on goggles of hindsight
and blame society for boys blossoming
into cyborgs fueled by revenge and low self-esteem.

eyelashes turn to razor wire
when the parents of the shooters refuse to come on t.v.
to take responsibility in abstention for their child’s atrocities.

states debate the woulds coulds and should dos,
map out doomsday scenarios and make policies
that grows slack as time erodes memories.

we lapse, make the same mistakes
that one person uses as a catalyst for cataclysm.

i, nominated for most clumsy at my senior prom,
would’ve been voted “most likely to rampage”
if i graduated after 1999.

the difference between the kid i used to be
and the other kids like me
that loved the NIN and Ministry,
bathed in the blood of digital demons regularly
was choice.

my mom was dope.  she believed me responsible enough
at the age of nine to concretely define fantasy and fact.

when she saw that day i laughed a little too much
at bullets chewing a man down into scrap,
she reverted back from dope human being to mom,
sat my ass down in fact,
chided me for the lack of humanity i exhibited
when i laughed like hyenas on crack.

i had a choice then, tune her out,
and get smacked, or listen, heed her lessons
so i would not grow up to be most likely
to gun your ass down because you made fun of me
because success is the best revenge
and if you’re dead, how can you succeed your enemies?

not everyone has a mom like that, i understand
and though puberty makes you stupid
when tangoing with devils and angels
as they dangle actions and their consequences
in your eyes, know that the responsibility
for pulling you back from the brink
no matter how much i want to help you isn’t mine.

never let anyone influence you,
redefine your character until you emote
in gunshots.  choose.

I think as long as we continue to blame the wrong things and refuse to embrace gun control, these types of senseless deaths will continue to happen, like the 8-year-old who shot his grandmother in Slaughter, LA, to which Grand Theft Auto IV was faulted. New Verse News published my response, which you can read here.


Haven’t read anything lately that has inspired me. However, Neko Case’s new album is gorgeous. “Night Still Comes” has one of my favorite verses in a song this year:


“Did it poison my food?”
Is it because I’m a girl?
If I puked up some sonnets,
would you call me ‘a miracle’?”

Here’s the lyric video of the song.


Tomorrow is the final There Will Be Words at Urban Rethink before we move to our new location. You should come out.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

About J. Bradley

J. Bradley's is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominated writer whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals including decomP, Hobart, and Prairie Schooner. He was the Interviews Editor of PANK, the Flash Fiction Editor of NAP, and the Web Editor of Monkeybicycle. He is the author of the poetry collection Dodging Traffic (Ampersand Books, 2009), the novella Bodies Made of Smoke (HOUSEFIRE, 2012), and the graphic poetry collection The Bones of Us (YesYes Books, 2014), illustrated by Adam Scott Mazer. He is the curator of the Central Florida reading series There Will Be Words and lives at iheartfailure.net.

Latest Posts By J. Bradley


performance calendar, performances, poetry, publication news


, , , ,