By James Bradley

Artificial Intelligence
Of riot police—their padded limbs
Tangled tightly in a black veil
Of plastic & synthetic fire

Breastplates of jacinth, brimstone
And triangulating ‘chips
Capable of locating each
Secret, inevitable thread

Of subliminal contrition
Within a heterodox tract hid,
Their rods of absolution
Humming a simple melody

For scores of black boots to dance to
In steady lockstep, in rhythm,
Thus is the countryside trampled
From Charleville to gay Paris
The dirty-faced farmers are all
Self-erected memorials
Before a hand-painted backdrop
Of non-existence & wheat stalks

Barefoot, the poet walks along
The provincial lanes by day,
And by night sleeps curled within
One such black boot’s footprint

In the series left in the wake
Of the boys with plastic faces,
The rhythm of his nightly rest—
Breathe deeply, die, & arise

He knows, with faith unwavering
(And some certain-seeming dreams), with
Doubt unrelenting & in the
Sublimity of what life seems

That these underfoot scars lead straight
To the bloodstained horizon, his
Destination, & theirs, the fire-
Storm rising of Neo-Poem

To th’ impasse of th’ Empress’
Perennial dialogue
With a projected & promised
Successor, sovereign double—
The boot’s imprint is deeply dug
With recessed lines of trademark’d tread
Which keep his dreamtime light & near
And his dreams squatted o’er his head

A passing grasshopper, crossing
This canyon of fresh aggression
Utilizes, gently & swift,
The slumb’ring poet’s unfurled brow

As stepping stone of padded bone
While Our Lady’s stone breast quakes,
As bridge erected quicksilver
As Our Lady’s altar boys quiver—
It’s said that in sudden stirrings
Of long-dormant archetypes can
Accede th’ arabesque Eden
Of the linguistic infant born

Burning polestar, heavy & red
Which mustn’t be cradled in arm,
But firstly the road must be trod
Into that Armageddon-womb

With no provisions but some crumbs
Dropped by one’s host, the aggressor
Who banquets toward the reddish glow
Where the drones circle like vultures

James Bradley is an artist and writer living in San Francisco, California. His paintings have been exhibited at the Berkeley Art Museum, the Verge Art Fair, Alter Space Gallery, and elsewhere. His chapbook publications include Mirrors of Azazel, and more recently, a modern translation of the medieval text The Cloud of Unknowing. His work deals with the pseudo-mystical, esoteric structures concealed within everyday life that serve to drown the individual’s perception of pure existence in a deluge of abstraction, symbol, and information. He received his MFA from the California College of the Arts in 2009.