The Coil
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The Coil

The Bends

Poem by J. Bradley

“Where do we go from here,” she asked. Chlorine
stained the needle of my finger pointing
at the adjacent bathroom door. On the sink,
I unwrapped her, ignoring the tea leaves
of her bikini on the tile, grateful
for her trained silence.

My mother swelled, winked
when I brought Callie home, counted with ease
the mistakes we’d make.

After the condom
broke during our second time, my baptism
soured; I offered my fingers instead,
knelt on carpet, wool, wood, and laminate.

If I had read the tea leaves, tracked which way
the water pooling in the tile ran toward,
I would have learned faster not to need you.

The 2015 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

We are pleased to announce this poem as a finalist for the 2015 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry, honoring the independent press’ best poems and hybrid works of the year. The winners are selected by an external panel that judges all pieces blind and chooses the full list of 12 finalists from hundreds of entries. Alternating Current does not determine the final outcome for the judging; the external judges’ decisions are final.

J. Bradley is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize-nominated writer whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including decomP and Prairie Schooner. He was the Interviews Editor of [PANK], the Flash Fiction Editor of NAP, and the Web Editor of Monkeybicycle. He is the author of the poetry collection, Dodging Traffic (Ampersand Books, 2009), the novella, Bodies Made of Smoke (HOUSEFIRE, 2012), and the graphic poetry collection, The Bones of Us (YesYes Books, 2014), illustrated by Adam Scott Mazer. He is the curator of the Central Florida reading series, There Will Be Words, and lives at​

Originally published on 6/3/15.



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The Coil

The Coil

Managing Editor & Associate Editors for The Coil from @AltCurrent: Fiction, poetry, interviews, reviews, lit commentary, essays.