May 15, 2013

Brad Rose

The Traveling Salesman Problem
Like a TV shouting at an empty room,
I’m thinking loud thoughts I’m unable to name.
Molecules sort themselves into the shape of a man,
the way fallen leaves once arranged themselves
into the shape of an elm.
So many cities, so many towns,
a lifetime of suitcases, beige food.

I’ve ascended five thousand miles
steeped in a cappella muzak
no eye-contact, vacant smiles.
No matter what you’re selling
redemption is the shortest distance
between two points.
God ticks in every minute.
Elevator time is all there is.

This morning, when I glanced in the mirror,
it was like listening to mute crickets.
I can’t help but think that self-storage is a good idea,
secure and affordable, not that many break-ins.
Can the chameleon recall its native color?

On the highway now,
vacant as a July elementary school,
I turn up the music, drive faster.
Isolated thunder storms, lonely rain,
Why doesn’t the Genie
ever get a wish?
Rented Tux
I wasn’t sure whether I was dead or alive. Now, I know that’s just black and white thinking. I may be empty for the rest of my life, or some fungible equivalent thereof, but when you’ve had everything taken from you, again and again, you try to make the best of absence. Thank God, nature adores a vacuum, that I trained as a mime. Although I haven’t found my voice, I sometimes hear music that isn’t there. I’m taken places. The nights are clean. I sleepwalk. I’m a vacant fathom. Of course, a train doesn’t lay its own tracks, a book isn’t written to be read by other books. There is no Roman numeral zero. When I find myself admiring perfect strangers—the way they seem so comfortable in their skins, so nonchalant—I recall that appearances can be deceiving. And the wind, the invisible wind, always arriving, always departing. Always taking itself someplace brand new.

The Next Thing You Know

Everything, its own invention, happens eventually, although sometimes not at all: the music of fog, cannibal piñata, razor blade hula hoops. Have you noticed that if you talk about time, it slows? If you talk about love, it stops? Today, in Mecca, it’s 109 and raining arithmetic bees. The sky has gone too far. Clocks are machines for the manufacture of moments. Time is its own décor. I wonder what color I should paint the red ant farm? As the smoke clears, my body is riddled with PowerPoint bullets. Fortunately, I’m never hungry, because I’m food. Loving you is like chewing bees to get honey. The newspaper reads itself and begins sobbing uncontrollably. I’m happy that I am a room all to myself. I leave things to chance; nothing is ever my fault. Sometimes it’s particles, sometimes waves. Beneath the striped fur of the tiger, the skin, too, is striped.

[editor's favorites, 2013]


Brad Rose was born and raised in southern California, and lives in Boston. Links to his poetry and fiction can be found at

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