Found in a Hollow Book Covered with Cilia

A moist, anonymous brawny brain on a bed,
a soft, red, brainless bed in a room with no features,
no feathers. The brain, without a mouth

or visible speakers, addresses you in a pleasing,
unaccented speech: I appear to be defenseless,
and yet I am not quite what I appear. Shouldn’t I

be disarmed? But haven’t I been already?
You stand there, at the foot of the bed, breathing
a bit faster than normal, a cudgel in your hand.

You examine the truncheon, wondering who
gave it to you. On closer inspection, the wooden club
is a book with a thick, slightly damp cover, tiny hairs

waving across the surface. You open the book.
Someone hollowed out the center to hide a handgun
carved out of wood, dyed black with shoe polish.

You stroke the cross-hatched handle. Black
polish stains your finger. Could the gun fire
blunt wooden bullets? You peer down the barrel.

There’s something lurking inside. A vine afraid
of the light. The vine gives off a milky scent
that makes you sleepy. When you open your eyes,

all that’s left of the handgun is a piece of paper.
You fold and refold it into a bird, fish, room
with collapsible walls, a piece of wrinkled paper.

It hardens, in the heat of your hand, into a clay
tile. Deeply etched lines sketch a slippery brain
shaping itself into a question mark. You turn

the question mark on its side, and it’s a handgun
firing a portion of itself at you. You turn
it back around. No need to be alarmed. No.

It’s only a simple pipe evacuating its brain.





John Bradley has published poems in Diagram, Hotel Amerika, Lake Effect, and other journals. He is the author of seven books of poetry and prose, including, most recently, Erotica Atomica (WordTech). He often reviews poetry for Rain Taxi.