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John Bradley's Poetry

The Lost Book


I found it at Hyde's Brothers bookstore in Fort Wayne
in the aisle with bicycle wheels and electric fans.
The Lost Book, Thomas McGrath, Working Books.
Uncertain authenticity, penciled lightly
on the inside cover, and then: $13.50.
No copyright, only: This book is the property
of the one who reads it. If copied
on underpass or rest room walls, the poems
will be much improved.

No place of publication, only an inked thumbprint.
A gray hair, loose tobacco, fingernail clipping
caught in the folds.
Rubber stamped warning on odd pages:
You are now responsible for the care of everyone
who has ever read this book.

Bite mark on the corner of page sixty-four.
Some of the poems borrow lines from Sappho,
Mohammad Ali, Mother Jones, the Katznjammer Kids,
my mother's sermons at the Sunday breakfast table.
Each of the poems begins: As I sit here and then
where and when the poem seized control.
Faint smells of gasoline, bread, leather, beer.
Expiration date for these poems: To be announced
Each poem sixty-four lines, except for four
of six lines, and six of four lines
and one one-lined poem eating the page's silence.
Random artwork: a fist shaking a handful of weeds.
On the last page, an empty rectangle, with this
instruction: Enter Here Your Own Damn Poem.
On page thirty-nine: evidence of cough, sneeze, or sloppy yawn.
The word "never" never appears in this book
except for the poem that says: The word "never"
never appears in this book.

Each poem ends: And so it all bloody well happened.
And if it didn't, it could. And if it could, it will.

When the last copy of McGrath's The Lost Book is lost,
A hand by night will write The Lost Book.