Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 12
Autumn, 2013

Featured Excerpt

James Bradley


"You certainly have a strange way of preparing to be martyred," the quizzically uttered words came from somewhere down below, but it was impossible to tell from whose lips they escaped, like the hiccups of divine naiveté they surely were. Realistically, it could have been any one of the girls in black and white. Stylistically, one assumed that the broad possibilities could, as usual, be whittled away until only very thin toothpicks of the real were left available to the observation of eyes for whom such scrutiny did not constitute the most tiresome of chores. Laying back upon the highest tree branch she could afford to love wholeheartedly and without reservation, Sister Constance thought of many appropriate replies to this banality of the other, decidedly earthbound, sisters.

Their rosaries were wearing down to grains of sand in each sweat-soaked hand.

The dawn of guillotines was fast approaching, its light shooting across the roused French countryside as fast as the flight of the black angels whom the sisters had to thank for this mass hypnosis, this painful illumination blinding the lid-locked eyes of the closing eighteenth century, this coming-of-age of the ages. The sisters tried to remain positive, reminding each other frequently that in the palm of God's hands, where they paced to and fro, nothing too terribly obscene could be expected to happen.

"Mystics should more rightly be called Mistakes...," Sister Constance said under her breath in reply to a wayward comment which does not warrant transcription. Time, she thought, is the entity that both tics and takes, in fact, it tics intermittently as it takes continuously, and it is precisely time which is lacking in this, our diminishing moment of existence. She peeled a vibrant orange carefully, attempting to remove the skin in one unbroken spiral, like Jacob's ladder as soon to be portrayed by William Blake. She was very hungry, but no amount of impassioned protestation from her decidedly worldly tummy could convince her to abandon her methodical ascent up that mythical ladder. The meat of the fruit could wait; the fruit of the labor was what mattered.

The task completed, Sister Constance let the peel drop to the feet of the sisters on the ground who, preoccupied with the sound of the slicing retribution bearing down, continued their nervous banter as she crossed herself then attempted to get some sleep before the crowning hour.


"Curious beings, trapped in matter, in acts of transcendental defiance sculpt that very same matter into the stuff of dreams. I'm cute... nobody understands me!" cried one nymph to the rest, slipping, against her will yet wholly in accord with her nature, into irrelevant digression.

A second nymph, pouring palm-fulls of water onto the first's head over and over again, countered, "Not the stuff of dreams... merely representations of that elementary something which the weird creatures are not even sure exists to begin with! Why don't you go dry off with the dryads?"

"Why don't you go contemplate the monad," interjected a smirking third, then quickly cupped her hands to her mouth, giving the impression that the words had gotten out before she could stop them.

The clear surface of the spring reflected the skyscrapers which loomed overhead in all directions as the skyscrapers' polished façades reflected each other in the manner of sympathetic magic, sucking the clouds of the sky down the same infinitely regressive vortex as they went. "I'm cute!" repeated the first for emphasis, and then pinched her nose with her thumb and forefinger and plunged into the glass-like liquid, her feet kicking into the air as she dove below the surface, transforming her entire body, from the point of view of any observer above, into a chaotic, shifting swirl of flesh-tone, silver and baby blue.

The skyscrapers offered up a rising challenge unprecedented in the history of the ageless world. "What are we going to do with those curious beings?"

"Love them."

"I meant besides that..."

At that moment a head of closely-matted, soaked and shining hair emerged from the water, and with an air of finality, said, "De duobus malis, minus est semper eligendum."*

*"Of two evils, always choose the lesser one." (Thomas à Kempis)

James Bradley is an artist and writer living and working in Brooklyn, New York. He received his MFA from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, California in 2009.