by Anthony Isaac Bradley
this sundown is yours
right now I want to study my shoestrings
all the way back
to the campfire we pushed together
with YouTube instructions while on
pills and Coca-Cola
dirty from the ingredients
you said we couldn’t agree on anything
but look at us
in a behaved moment
we built something
who cares if it’s temporary
Crush is what to do with girls and other boys. Crush before
taking someone home for a few tragedies, press down
until their bones make room.
Crush is what to trust.
Is the name of a book, the name
of a poem. Realistically, Crush is the name of two, possibly more.
This poem is named Blueprint. Crush,
follow the steps and make diamonds, make like hell-bent teenagers
and Crush close enough to listen,
close enough to hear every muscle pop and Crush
for glitter from a high-rise, confetti
on the ground. Crush on Jessica Glover,
on D. Gilson, on Natalie Byers for days.
Crush talk into rhythm. Crush open mouth into armpit.
Crush but stay on point, now relieve
the pressure. After the excitement comes strawberry jam—lift
for sunlight. Begin Crush where you stand. On the drive
home from St. Louis, Minnesota,
San Francisco. Sketch a life
like one could prepare. Crush a house
on Weller Street, Crush a family pet with a back yard.
A fountain in the driveway. Crush bliss
with impatience but keep safe, because Crush
is the word to drop when there is a need to fall in love but no chance
for a boy with smarts, or a girl with a mean streak. Crush this temporary body
and leave no instructions for the left-behind, the coming lonely.
I never wore my mother’s lingerie
I stole from the neighbor’s wife instead
Plucked a red velvet brazier
I was a boy
Soft from long baths
Pretending the hands weren’t mine
What could happen in another man’s grip
I heard what happened
How a fag was beat to death
Near our busiest highway
Heard he deserved it
I hid my red velvet under the sink
Under the rubber plunger
I kept living
Took a lover
I said no kissing but yes
To the rest
I asked if he liked dress-up
And he said No fems
I fucked him
Pretended his hands were mine
I was delicious
I said I
Said I love you
I wrote for him and about
Made his bed
I was his red velvet
Ruby stockings rolled up and rolled down
Flung myself over him
I hid from all of you
Bred then bored him
I don’t blame him
I knew who I was
Three Extra Dry Martinis in Boston
—with Sexton & Plath
I will say this: I’ve worked to outgrow the kind of boy
who knows every gory detail,
even if their nonsense makes me
feel young. Boys who will lead anyone interested
to the body. On empty farmland, or rolled somewhere
in a ditch—a favorite hangout
for your boy, Death. Anne, would you believe
avoiding this romanticism
gets easier with every man-made wonder?
Hot take: your boy, like the rest of us, same
as an afternoon table for two on the coast,
was a bore. Guilty of legend-building
and conspiring with gods. Butting into every narrative
with a tired agenda and need
for attention. Perhaps you knew, felt sorry
for him and offered a cuddle, like Sylvia did. Does she
know I can take Google for a drive,
find the child’s body
of work? There are no secrets left
since your boy’s CV is public access: Automobile,
alcohol, gravity. Yes, love. Overexposed
on Subreddits, Dark Web. Nothing new
and all the blood looks staged. Your boy is no good
at realism, and I’m hard to convince.
I mean I want to outgrow a boy who lies about dignity
when there’s no evidence. Yet, like you two,
I’m desperately in the entourage.
for every mood that falls, just to remind myself
how going all the way on a livestream
might not garner enough upvotes to make it
worth the trouble. Search Doorknob
plus Tie, Plastic Bag plus
Garden Hose plus the voyeurism
of your goddamn boy.
Choices that either age with me
or against. I don’t look good in purple. I don’t
want to be filling skinny jeans at forty, holding
my ticket for youth’s great closer.
Look, it’s late, and I’m pretend drunk.
Your boy is—again, predictable—out all night,
past my bedtime. Maybe I’m just jealous.
If I could afford a martini in Boston
I would surely order three, throw
my head back for a good pipe cleanse. Honestly,
I’m over it. I went to meet our boy
once, but grew tired on the long walk there.
Anthony Isaac Bradley is an MFA candidate at Texas State University. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Gargoyle, Cimarron Review, and other journals. He lives with his cat and the ghost of another.