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Chris Bullard

Chris Bullard is a native of Jacksonville, FL. He lives in Collingswood, NJ, and works for the federal government as an Administrative Law Judge. He received a BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania and a MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. Plan B Press published his first chapbook, You Must Not Know Too Much, in 2009. Big Table Publishing published his second chapbook, O Brilliant Kids, in 2011. WordTech has agreed to publish Back, his first full-length book, in November of 2013.

Movie Going

Unreeling in the dark, the dream
Persuades. We're better than we seem
— Kinder, gentler. Just as the tart
Has, underneath, a golden heart.

And so appealing that the star
Soon loves us as we really are.
Our alter egos burn to kiss.
The freeze-frame darkens into bliss.

And stronger too. We have a gun
That can insure our will be done.
Among the extras, bullets fly
But only hit the chief bad guy.

We're innocent of any crime.
An expert witness will, in time,
Be found to swear that we are true.
No matter what it is we do,

Though wrong or selfish, it will send
Us happy endings by The End.
The best lie's last: that you and I
Were not put in the script to die.

published in Hellas and reprinted in Light Quarterly

In Uncle Sam’s Bar

In Uncle Sam's, the beer is cheap
And served in mugs as cold as ice.
A few, tonight, might help me sleep.

I find some change by digging deep
And tip my waitress to make nice.
In Uncle Sam's, the beer is cheap.

A weekly paycheck lets me keep
My barstool in this paradise.
One more, I think, might let me sleep.

I’ve got the cash, so what the bleep.
Don’t tread on me, that’s my advice.
In Uncle Sam's, the beer is cheap.

You’d think to run a tab so steep,
I owned the bar, though, once or twice,
When I have needed most to sleep

And counted empty mugs like sheep,
I’ve found a thousand won’t suffice.
In Uncle Sam’s, the beer is cheap
But buying it won’t let you sleep.

published in Tilt-a-Whirl


Sent forward to observe
angle and trajectory
my dad was hit by artillery.
It cracked his spine
and crushed a nerve.

Not one to cry to the VA
and be put on the shelf,
for forty years he clocked in.
He nursed himself,
though not his gin.

I’d catch him out some nights
on his dead-eyed stagger,
red-faced and off-center.
He was sloppy when he poured,
but stiffly polite.

However much he put away,
formalities of father and son
kept it under a lid.
He wanted to work until he died
and so, he did.

Wear, not war, got me:
manning a desk for the government,
answering a phone.
Now, every movement,
bone scrapes on bone.

Late hours are the worst.
I pour myself a cognac
while trying not to wake the house.
I have my father’s back
and now I share his thirst.

published in The Evansville Review

O Brilliant Kids

The green and silver sea reversed,
pulling me on my inner tube
outside the rip.
Despite my kicking,
I was floating to Europe.

Knee high in the waves, mom
raised a hand to grip the funnel
of a shout.
As I made it out,
she was blowing me a kiss.

I already had the knowledge
that things like school and punishment
required waiting,
so I dangled my feet,
over the center lip

and kept my butt to the seat,
wondering only if
I might see fish.
I wasn’t the sort to slip
off the edge

like Melville’s Pip,
a small boy left
in the open sea,
who went mad as he treaded
in that immensity.

I was easy enough with the drift
even as I wheeled,
clockwise, in my clock ship
to face the gulls
on the remote horizon.

I dipped and rolled,
but the sea reversed, again,
and pushed me out unhurt.
I ran to my mom
with my tube pulled up like a skirt.

Immersed in her arms
and rocked on her hips,
I was glad to be back with the mother
I had started with
instead of that waiting, inevitable other.

published in Provincetown Arts

Back Story

The mate in spandex straps us, front and back,
To flapping canvas sail and walks us back-
Wards to the speedboat’s slippery stern, back
To where the blue-green sea roils in the back-
Wash. You shout, “This is great,” but I shout back,
“Let’s ask the captain for our money back.”
And then a windstorm lifts us. Looking back,
I see us rising, slipping off the back
From safety into sky. The one way back
Is down. I yell, “Too high!” and pull you back
Though you’re not scared – not here, or back
At home, where I press, sleeping, to your back,
Afraid to lose you, who hold nothing back.

published in Rattle

Cutting Back

I’m getting those trash trees out of the yard,
I say at breakfast, and this worries you,
Who fret each morning that I’ll over-do
The heart that easy middle age left scarred,
But I would have our line of sight unmarred
By sumac stands. The hills they overgrew
Were what we bought the land for. Going through
The motions with a saw won't be so hard.
And so I lunge and sweat. I’m just about
To quit, but I get sloppy with the blade.
A crosscut nicks my thumb. You hear my shout
And run to bandage up the mess I’ve made.
My blood upon your hand is beautiful:
The shade of red the sumac turns in fall.

published in River Styx

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Madman

On days with mother out, I’d entertain
Myself by bouncing my red rubber ball
On ants. The one I chose to hit would stall,
Midway in his journey, then shake with pain.
Sometimes, one shuddered so, he seemed insane,
Or having fits, but when he tried to crawl
Back home, I’d get him, as I got them all.
Like God, I worked my will and they were slain.
Yet, ants could not confirm my mastery.
I despised their insect indifference.
I wanted creation to acknowledge me
As an artist, one who had magnified
Our limited sensory experience.
Work I created should know it had died.

published in 32 Poems


Though I had work to read on my commute,
I passed into the tunnel of a nap.
Anaesthetized, made half awake and mute,
I dropped the brief of papers from my lap.
Thus, dispossessed, I was without a claim
To what I carried with me, and had no strength
When agents spoke my destination’s name.
I would be traveling the railway’s length.

Beyond a bridge, the hollow train slid fast
Across invisible and blacked-out space.
A moon ascendant in the safety glass
Imposed its eye upon my outlined face.
The lights above the lot where some were parked
Now fogged like x-ray plates. I disembarked.

published in Nimrod

Avignon, 1348

The Chief Physician sniffed the papal shit
Before him on the salver. The odor
Is healthy
, he told his first assistant,
Who made note of this, and form and color.
No irregularity. Nothing worse
Than some small indication of the gout.
He might advise Clement to skip a course
Each meal, or cut the midnight suppers out.

His patron was well, so the world was well.
He saw nothing that would support the tales
The frightened peasants had started to tell
Of poisonous winds and biblical hails.
And he was pleased to be walking among
These bodies the plague would turn into dung.

published in Pleiades

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