• Address 720 East Locust Street | Milwaukee, WI 53212
  • Phone 414.263.5001
  • Hours Tue-Fri 11-8pm | Sat-Sun 12-5pm | Closed Mon
  • Hours Tue-Fri 11-8pm, Sat-Sun 12-5pm, Closed Mon
Event Calendar
readings & workshops
April 6 - Sep 28

Book Club: Readshops led by Karl Gartung

readings & workshops
July 3 - Sep 25

Dhamma MKE

August 1 - Sep 26

The Point Being: Works by Thomas Gaudynski

special events
September 21

¡Palante!: A Celebration of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture

readings & workshops
September 22 - Oct 13

Friction in Fiction: Developing Characters and Conflict

readings & workshops
September 26

Poetry Reading: Jake Skeets & Manny Loley

readings & workshops
September 26

Poem as Field – Understanding Energy in Poetry a craft talk with Jake Skeets

readings & workshops
October 2

Poetry Reading: Alan Bernheimer & Karl Gartung

readings & workshops
October 16

Poetry Reading: Timothy Donnelly & Bethany Price

October 17

Formations Series for New & Improvised Music

readings & workshops
October 19

Language as a Playground

readings & workshops
October 20

Reading: Peter Markus

readings & workshops
October 22 - Dec 31

Welcome Home!: A Veterans Writing Group

readings & workshops
October 23

Reading and Book Launch: Kathie Giorgio

readings & workshops
October 24

Urban Echo Poets

readings & workshops
October 27


readings & workshops
November 1

Reading and Screening: Trisha Low, Stephanie Young, and Zachary Epcar

readings & workshops
November 10 - Dec 8

Shifty Subjects and Unexpected Endings

special events
November 16

39th Anniversary Gala

John Bradley

John Bradley is the author of Terrestrial Music(Curbstone Press), War on Words (BlazeVox), and You Don't Know What You Don't Know (CSU Poetry Center). He's edited Atomic Ghost: Poets Respond to the Nuclear Age (Coffee House Press), and Eating the Pure Light: Homage to Thomas McGrath (The Backwaters Press). His play, Ahmerica, will be produced by The Third Onion this year in DeKalb, Illinois. He is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Art Fellowships and a Pushcart Prize. He teaches at Northern Illinois University.

"The ceaseless accumulation of things, places, people, events, dreams, and fears give rise to the unique space in which Bradley's poems exist."
-Abby Travis, Rain Taxi

Selected Poems

Confessions of a Ladder Rider

John Bradley


I'm riding my ladder down the street, one of those fast lightweight folding

ladders, standing on it a few steps from the bottom, wearing my white riding

helmet. She's crossing the street, her blouse aswirl with STOP and YIELD and

RAILROAD CROSSING signs. When she sees me coming at her, she freezes.

In order to avoid hitting her, I swerve to the left, assuming she'll continue

across the street. But she doesn't. The ladder catches her with the center of

the wooden X right on her chin, and she flops down on her back like a sack of

wilted celery. I let out, just for a second, a nervous laugh. I knew she wasn't

hurt, and the sight of her going down like that tickled me, the way silent film

turns fall into farce. I immediately try to apologize, but my muffled giggling

only makes things worse. There had been a rash of hit and run ladder riders

knocking down pedestrians, and she must have thought I was one of them. I

would have felt the same way if I were her. I rip off my helmet; she faints.

Did she see the mark of the folding ladder on my forehead? Had she eaten

celery for lunch? Why wasn't she wearing her pedestrian body armor? O,

Buster Keaton, why did you ever have to invent the motorized ladder? I

fasten my helmet strap, climb back aboard my vehicle, and fade into the flow

of traffic, just another outlaw ladder rider. 

Parable of the Indeterminate Cave

I'm living in a sealed cave with Madonna. At least she tells me her name is

Madonna, but I'm not so sure. She never wants to have sex, though I've tried

many times to subtly suggest it. I'll tell her that an oak chair was left out in

the rain, and she'll say that wet wooden chairs make her depressed. I'll say

that a glazed doughnut is rolling down a hill, and she'll say that doughnuts

make her feel fat. I'll say that a child is sleeping with his head on the

stretched skin of a drum, and she'll tell me that drum skins make her

perspire. There is one thing Madonna does like, though. She likes it when I

read to her. Sometimes I read her knuckles to her, though I usually read her

toes. I'll read until I start to get bored, and then I'll change a word in the

story. I'll say, "Father stroked his seersucker mustache," and she'll yell at

me. "That's not right," she'll say. "Father stroked his cerise mustache!"