Letter to a Friend Long Dead

by Marty Bradley
Wild Poetry Forum
First Place, July 2014
Judged by Suzanne Lummis


I ride the Walt Whitman into Camden,
guided by refineries’ methane flares,
brake lights bombarding my eyes, car horns unholy.
Jesus Christ would use his turn signal
every fucking time, even when no one’s watching.
It’s hard for me to imagine an event
without witness.

I would be without you either way, watching or not,
alone to possess this aging suit of skin and hair
and all the rest-black t-shirt pulled tight, diamond glinting.
I don’t know if I should venture out for weed
tonight, as thoughts of your pin-cushion belly
thicken my blood to a trickle, and the monotonous
calculation of half-life takes hold.

Seated in the lawn of the Susquehanna Bank Center,
I flirt with the drunken mother of quadruplets
granted an evening reprieve from her horde of suckling lips,
music provided by a skinny boy called Jason Mraz.
I don’t know how your girls are doing, George–
they have grown up and forgotten all but the myth of you,
but I remember kissing your papery lips goodbye.


I enjoy and admire the natural, conversational voice that manages to retain the stuff of poetry -- richness of detail, elements of surprise -- without flattening into prose. In the poem's final moment we discover that "George," who disappeared off the face of the earth long ago, seems to have been forgotten by nearly everyone, except for the poet who speaks to him now. This colors our understanding of what's come before. --Suzanne Lummis

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