Fall 2019 Contest Poetry Finalist: Two Poems by Jari Bradley


I stroll the body’s wilderness                                                       those last truly wild places

an attempt to wrest joy

from its hiding place                                                                                   the body’s expanse

Its granular pleasures                               undisturbed                     its strict reserves

its flora                                         its fauna

this is how I live                           with what has been done                                     in the dark

something inside me         grows lips                 against             the body’s intolerable ravine

its treacherous gulches                                                                                   an impossible sorrow

surely meant to drown me

something within reaches                                                                           toward the natural light

a wild phenomena                                             its act of witness

An untethering                                   in the body’s closed quarters                           its wild notes

a defiance                                                                           a disobedience

What I mean is

joy is a wild thing                     interior             rendered in the wilderness of my body when loosed




In the book of Genesis, God said:

Let us make man in our image, after

our likeness— I consider the fluidity

of creation. What if in the beginning,

Man was a sexless thing in search of

of his name? This gift God granted

Adam, his ability to gaze into a body,

to give it a name. To give the husk of

a thing meaning.


A man, broad shouldered and chiseled

jawed, flashed his semi-good teeth in

my girlfriend’s direction. As a man

what is the protocol? As myself, the

protocol is silence. I know there are

such things as right and wrong bodies,

mine soft in all the erred places, the

expanse of my body often read



How do I man this situation? At what

point do I feel man enough man

anything? I am too busy manning my

voice, deepening the pockets of my

throat for non-detection. And this,

believe it or not, is a line of defense. I

manned hard enough to meet his

roaming eyes and was met with a

heavy handed dap, while given the

name brother— a temporary kinship.


In the beginning, I was a sexless thing,

housed with a man that pummeled my

mother’s body from genesis. Our

bodies His dominion. His hands

teaching us both the meaning of fear

and God.

About the author

Jari Bradley is a black genderqueer poet and scholar from San Francisco, California. Jari has received fellowships from Callaloo, Cave Canem, and Tin House. Their work has been featured in the Huffington Post, and is listed by Blavity among "15 Creatives in the Bay Area You Should Know." Jari's work has also been published or forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, MARY: A Journal of New Writing, Callaloo, Hot Metal Bridge, Nomadic Ground Press, The Virginia Quarterly Review, BOAAT Journal, The Offing, and Punctum Books’ Anti-Racism, Inc: Why the Way We Talk About Racial Justice Matters. Jari has an M.A. in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University and is an MFA candidate at the University of Pittsburgh. They currently serve as Editorial Assistant of Asterix literary journal.

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