{An Umbrella Invitational}

Bob Bradshaw

has had work published in recent issues of Apple Valley Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Mannequin Envy, Blue Fifth Review and Tattoo Highway.

He has dreams of winning the lottery and being able to afford tickets to a Rolling Stones concert again.

—Back to Milestones Contents—

The Beatles. I couldn't hear their lyrics but

it didn’t matter. All the girls
knew the words more intimately
than they knew their skin.
I kept waiting for the thing to end,
my date's perfume thicker
than Daly City’s fog. I leaned
against her. My hand measured
her waist. PAUL, she screamed.

A man inside a gorilla suit
had a better chance than I had.
How could a boy with pimples,
his face greased like a mime’s,
cuddle up with Brenda?
Sweet scents clung to my grungy shirt.
Girls were more mysterious
than geometry, with better angles.

I was confused, but motivated.

I vowed I’d learn to play guitar.
It was that or become a mime.
I would stand on stage,
bobbing my head like a pigeon’s,
singing into a high voltage mike.
Why should I be denied
some dignity? For now
I smiled, weaving to the music,

as if mastering tai chi. A
slow contortion, an effort
to be hip, as Brenda wrapped
her arms across her chest.

[Originally published in Central California Poetry Journal]


Artist’s Statement

W hy is this poem a milestone? Well, for one reason my voice started to emerge here. Before this my work had been very literary, each line like a chipped brick patched over and over again. I would work months revising a poem.

Here was a poem that essentially fell out of my pockets. Only small revisions were made. The poem more clearly approximates someone speaking. And there is a fully developed character, one of my first characters with his own voice. I based the character on both other people’s memories of the famous Candlestick concert and on old films of the Beatles singing. Always, the girls would be screaming while their boyfriends looked on dazed, as if there was nothing they could do but out wait their girlfriends’ lunacy.

But the poem can’t hide its structural strains. It doesn't flow easily. The line endings are partly the cause. For example, take the line endings “I leaned” or “My hand measured.” The slight pause at the end of these lines creates a hesitation that causes the poem to stumble along. It would be better if the poem had longer line lengths. It would enhance the sense of someone talking. Another problem with the flow is caused by the poem having too many stresses in its lines. More anapests would have loosened the poem up, and again given the narrator a more natural rhythm to his speech. The high number of stresses clog the narrative’s flow.

Nine years after its publication, the poem’s problems remain as loyal as scars. But they’re scars I'm not ashamed to show. After all there are strengths as well. The poem’s narrator is vividly present in his shyness, awkwardness and determination.