de/tonations · Brad Rose

de/tonations · Brad Rose

The speakers of Rose’s poems harbor conspiracy theories, seethe with violent tendencies, mangle clichés and invent bizarre similes. The poems reel from unanswerable questions to flashes of wisdom to twisted aphorisms, and leave us gazing into the abyss, laughing. This is a delightful and ominous book
— Margaret Young, author of Almond Town


I had my doubts, so I followed myself around for a few days. Legally, I was within my rights. Like an angry mosquito, an invisible, persistent buzzing rang in my ears. It wouldn’t stop. Then I discovered the footprints in the back yard. Sure enough, it was elephants. Again.


Was feeding the snakes, when it dawned on me, the deeper you drill, the farther back in time you go. I’m afraid of my sleep because, like a shadow at night, there’s nothing in it. I’ve read a lot of books about animal magnetism, but taming an invisible force is harder than it looks. When Tammy-Lynn accidentally caught me planning my surprise party, she said, Most people close their eyes at an execution. It’s an involuntary reflex. A hundred million years without out arms or legs, grape-sized brains – you wonder how snakes have accomplished anything? Quiet, nearly smiling, a rattler yawns before it devours its venom-paralyzed prey – swallows it whole and squirming. Thinks nothing of it.

A Perfect Match

Sometimes, when God matches dreams with sleepers, he makes terrible mistakes, but if you don’t own a driver’s license, it can’t be revoked. They say motion slows the passage of time, so I’m going to trampoline all night on National Sleep Day. On the ride over here, the radio reported that multiple fires in the neighborhood appeared suspicious. With a glint in her eye, Kandy reminded me that wherever there’s smoke, there’s arson. Kandy is a philosophy major. She believes only a fireman can feel at home in a burning house. I realize, of course, not every woman is right for me.


At the Shine and Go, I dream of winning the lottery twice. The guy behind me, in the Mercedes, looks like Kim Jong Un. His girlfriend is prettier than Kim’s wife, but he’s probably over-mortgaged. He’s got Florida plates. They say climate change is making it rain all the time. Yesterday, I saw a knife in the sky. It ripped through the clouds like a scalpel. Fortunately, there wasn’t any bleeding. At night, I try to listen in my sleep, but I have thoughts that I have no idea I’m having. You know how it is. In America, you can be anyone you want, but you can’t be smarter than yourself. Tuesday, I had to make a copy of my driver’s license. My landlord wanted to make sure it was me. As I waited in line at Kinko’s for the copy machine, the line behind me got longer and longer. So many copies. Who’s calling the shots around here, anyway? I yelled. Nobody answered. Maybe they didn’t know it’s a free country? I love free stuff. It makes me happy. Don’t you just love free stuff? Me too. Noah loved all the animals on his boat. They lined up, two by two. He didn’t charge any of them for the cruise. Not one. Hey, it’s starting to rain again. It could rain here for a long, long time. Noah obeyed everything God commanded him to do. Hope I don’t drown before the Rapture.

Desert Motel

Today is fever bright, no wind. Justine says I should slow down, but I speed up. I like to get to things before they get to me. She’s been searching for her birthmother. It’s taken her about two years to get this far. I tell her she probably won’t recognize her. She laughs and says, Curtis, not every day has to be a maybe. Everybody wants something real. When we get to Vegas, she opens her purse and pulls out a birth certificate. It’s a single page, and on the back, it has tiny ink footprints and a large thumbprint. The motel is pink and white, and our room is cold as a skating rink. I sit on the end of one of the twin beds, drinking a Cherry Coke. Outside, it’s 102 in the shade. The pool is filled with screaming kids. You can hear them having fun, or something like it. I remind Justine there are more plastic flamingos in the world than real ones.

Brad Rose was born and raised in Los Angeles and lives in Boston. He is the author of a collection of poetry and flash fiction, Pink X-Ray (Big Table Publishing, 2015) His two new books of poems, Momentary Turbulence and WordinEdgeWise, are forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press. Brad is also the author of five chapbooks of poetry and flash fiction, Democracy of Secrets, Coyotes Circle the Party Store, Dancing School Nerves, An Evil Twin is Always in Good Company, and Away with Words. Three times nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and once nominated for Best of the Net Anthology, Brad’s poetry and micro fiction have appeared in, The American Journal of Poetry, The Los Angeles Times, Folio, decomP, Lunch Ticket, The Baltimore Review, Posit, Off the Coast, Clockhouse, and other publications.
Brad’s website is:

Copyright © 2020 Brad Rose

Cover photograph from the collection of Lauren Leja

ISBN 978-1-949279-23-8

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.

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