“Inheritance” by A.J. Bradley

A.J. Bradley


Speak the word hum and you have
another thing given its name
from the action creating it.

When I say I am proud of you for
going into a war, it must be because
you can’t see my wavering weight
upon news of Special Forces in Syria,
or how, like a neon predilection,
the day before a hanging green shape
of Afghanistan catches my eye
from a kebab shop window
after years of passing by it.
Because this universe gives us no way
to give each other any real thing.
This is how the story of the world goes down:
We desire that without which
we are first born, and then
we take it, or we don’t take it,
to have as our own.
Discarded ceiling-high Pegasus doll
on Fifth Avenue’s curb, found by a grown
man from Queens: soft-spot for magic,
rents a car, hauls the beast through his front door
to his kitchen. Now it rears back cramped
but ready for flight, wings extended there,
between a refrigerator and lamp.
A predicament of inheriting
so much history with no function
beyond first moments of thrill—
concentrating on the last consonant
of your name, remembering this bed’s not mine,
and neither is this thrift store sweater.
Ruminating my middle class mother
has no etiquette to pass on to me
of place settings or clean lines.
Why is it most wildnesses in our blood
only free themselves spilled-out in regret?
And what are we doing here?
asks the Pegasus on the street-side
in a dream I have not had yet.
The toy store is closing,
I tell him, smoothing his mane with my rain-slicked hand.
No, he whinnies, and sighs-in deep. I mean
on this planet. This planet. No one’s made
for this kind of planet.

If nothing else, my mother,
she gave me a strong singing voice.
All I can do now for the great winged horse
is hum.

Poets Respond
May 24, 2015

[download audio]


A.J. Bradley: “This past week we learned Special Forces entered Syria, but the news in New York was overwhelmed by the closing of FAO Schwarz, the iconic toy store. The next day I found out a close friend of mine in the military will likely be redeployed, and his going back felt also oddly related to a CNN story of a man who took home the toy store’s huge plush Pegasus after it had been tossed-out on the street. Perhaps this is because all three events seemed to question, for me, the complex nature of what belongs to us or doesn’t (especially as Americans); what anyone has the right to take or not to take; and on a more intimate plane, why we innately are not very good at being grateful or appreciative for what we are given or already have, and if we can ever learn to be.” (website)

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