Martha Carlson-Bradley: "Woodcut Illustrations"




            New England Primer, 1727



The bump of an eyeball


breaks away, leaving its owner



and the block itself is cracking:


odd wraiths are writhing

through a group of children’s faces—


the dead and the quick.


The crescent moon erodes

to a V of bat wings.


And the reigning king thins out

to spirit—sprite—


as his wife, on her knees,

still is pleading, full bodied.


By design, few have noses

or eyebrows. Only Job


counts to five on his fingers.


And the cock tries its best

to wake Saint Peter’s conscience:


how crisp each feather; how sharp

each separate spur.


The whale in the sea, rising,

rolls his one, huge eye.



Martha Carlson-Bradley has published one full-length poetry book, Season We Can't Resist (WordTech Editions, 2007), as well as two chapbooks, Beast at the Hearth (Adastra, 2005) and Nest Full of Cries (Adastra, 2000). Her work has appeared in several literary magazines, including the New England Review, Carolina Quarterly, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Spoon River Poetry Review. As a creative arts fellow at the American Antiquarian Society in 2008, she did research for a new collection in progress, which includes "Woodcut Illustrations."