Monday, April 13, 2015

I35 Creativity Corridor: Timothy Bradford, Oklahoma City, OK, April 13

Away From

When the world is no more
a beach for faithful children
I will find you, Oklahoma.
Away from home—Hawaii—
I must seek the flat, the
dry, the expanse of sky
not mirrored in ocean. Give me
the honest red-to-purple stain
of man-made lake or cow pond
set in stunning brocade of
green grass & furtive brown
cow patties. Give me a
home, temporary, where
the buffalo, not brahs, roam,
kay den? Let me marvel & tourist
there in a place few claim as
paradise & the ocean left
long ago. O, Oklahoma,
you are so far
away from home.

(Written for a patron from Hawaii during the 2014 Short Order Poems season; first published in the August SOP chapbook.)

Turner Turnpike

The Infant Jesus of Prague
sleeps soundly as lighted
semis and horse trailers
pass through the dark on
the same auto vein by which I
return to you
my family of lighted semi love,

I’ve swapped lives
with another
for an existence
that belies who I was
becoming once
despite who I am?

When you sweep
the floor there’s enough
dirt to start a garden, enough
hair to knit a sweater.
And no one bothers to
sweep much.

Still I call it home and
entering in am
by others, human seeds,
sometimes kind, sometimes
surly, sometimes indifferent
but acknowledging
me as a part of it.

Families split, into two or
three, or shatter on
the ground like
a plate dropped by a child
moving too fast. But this one
holds so far, or rather,
it’s glued well
together of broken
pieces. A bit of dirt,
a bit of hair adheres
but the plate is
sound, serves to hold
a meal, to keep
the food off our laps.

The whole human is
a myth, the whole family
a myth too. Somehow
we survive, are not
destroyed, are “isolate flecks”
of living.

And the Infant Jesus of Prague
sleeps soundly in his bed
not far from
the Best Western Stroud
Motor Lodge
16 feet 5 inches beneath
the overpass above.

Triweekly Cimarron River Report, May 17th
to August 28th

High and tumultuous, medium and running, dulce et decorum
nella sulla bankula, ethereal and brown, murky but clearer
than the Arkansas, Cimarron red, frothy and shimmering,
vaguely blue, silvery and verdant, pensively dark green, aquasienna,
milk teeth blue, frothy and stringy red, khaki, pimento
and bass, greyhound green, crimson but given to viridescence,
lapis lazuli, steel brown, interstate blue, shimmering taupe,
recycled white glass, slate, macadam, invisible, tree bark, shivering
liver, café au lait, minnow, chiffon, raspberry margarita,
month-old caramel apple, lady of the lake green and silver,
manure, milky vermeil, catfish belly and roiling, invisible,
brick house, Serengeti red, gravy spleen, cattle, basalt.

(Previously published in ecopoetics 06/07 and Nomads with Samsonite.)


It’s on, now

happening here, God, or Nature,

         the cows in the field, uniform

                  and coloring.

         A Transformer is both

                  a jet and a robot, a car

         and a robot. Some are called

         decepticons, but they really should be called

                  realityicons. Everything is

         something and something else then

                  something else. You are still you
         sort of, your body transformed
                  but we’re glad you’re still

         in it. And you are you as we learn

                           who you are. And   four comes

                  before five   most of the time.

         On the growth chart, who’s to say

                  what height you should    be at

                           when you are god, or nature.
         Everything all at once

                           streaming out of the goddess’s

                  yoni. The boy said over dinner,

                           “I like to call people        twats

                  because it’s not so offensive.”

                                    (He meant twits.)

         God, or nature,      is                shining down

                           upon us,      and is making

         a road to drive on           and is

                           driving the atmosphere

                  round. Trees stand by, are good for

         many things. Their puissance is

                  enormous and deceptive.   We
breathe in it.

Self-portrait of the poet as southern plains commuter.
As a longtime resident of Oklahoma City, I’ve spent a lot of time on I-35. It was a prime route to hockey games to the north and bicycle road races to the south during my childhood and teen years. From 2000 to 2005, I did my PhD studies at Oklahoma State University, some sixty miles northeast via I-35, and many years later, after one year at the University of Tulsa, accessed via I-35 and the Turner Turnpike, I started working at Oklahoma State University and doing the same sixty mile commute.
This is my third year of it, and I’d be lying if I said I love it. 

But I have a great commuting partner, and I manage to get a fair amount of work done. I’ve also listened to some long novels, including Moby Dick and Roberto Bolano’s 2666. And I’ve also recorded a lot of poems and drafts of poems. My car = one of my various offices.

Currently, we live in the country, three miles east of I-35, so it serves as our main route for getting into OKC, too, where my wife works and my sons go to school. In fact, later this evening, I’ll use it to drive most of the fifteen miles into the city to pick up my fifteen-year-old son at the end of his shift at Rocktown, a rock climbing gym in an old grain silo with a psychedelic, plains-themed mural on its side. 

Photo by Rick Sennett
I wish I spent less time on I-35 with its herds of pickups and semis hauling ag and oil equipment, all of us burning copious fossil fuels as part of a system that looks to be disastrous for our future, and I’m looking for a job closer to home. But as long as we’re living where we live, I-35 will be a quotidian experience for us, and I will try to witness its strange, troubling, and sometimes beautiful existence.

Timothy Bradford is the author of the poetry collection Nomads with Samsonite (BlazeVOX [books], 2011) and the introduction to Sadhus (Cuerpos Pintados, 2003), a photography book on the ascetics of South Asia. Recent work has appeared in Atticus Review/Boo’s Hollow, Art Focus Oklahoma, This Land, The Oklahoma Review, and Upstairs at Duroc. He cofounded Short Order Poems in 2014 and is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Oklahoma State University.

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