Review: The Bones of Us by Jay Bradley and Adam Scott Mazer


The collaboration between poet J. Bradley and artist Adam Scott Mazer is comprised of linked poems that hit us failed lovers where it hurts. It is set up in two sections including thirty-eight poems and contains a beautiful mixture of poetry and ink drawings. Bradley’s language is urgent and bleeding, while Mazer’s black and white illustrations show desperation and terror; such as in Detention, where Bradley relates first the cheating and then the angry afterward:

We call my forearm pressed

Against your throat kindling.

A slaughter, the chalkboard

Of my back rased of all safety.

The woods,

your hair,

my hands.

This is accompanied by the image of a man and a woman, naked and tearing at each other’s flesh. It is a mix of sensual and violent: the couple’s outlet for rage.

The Bones of Us ends up as a storybook poetry collection based on the angst and despair that dwell in a broken heart. Love is lost and passion twists into hate. Anyone with an ex, one they can’t quite find the strength to let go of, could identify strongly with the tortured language, fueled by recurring themes of wine drunkenness, nature and weapons. The gritty macabre style drawings, with skulls in full smiles, bring the violence of heartbreak to the forefront, visceral and aching.

You can feel the rage and loss throughout the works, but self pity is balanced with the true depth of feeling and the relatable nature of the topic. The poetic imagery and illustrations that back it up give the reader a way in to the dark place where Bradley delves. Toothy monsters, melting flesh, blood and wine cover the pages as Bradley moves through the stages of a tormented breakup. Saying, “The first letter of your name sleeps below my wrist;/ I’m not sure what to smother it with.” And the sense of terror does sleep – this is a build up of bottled emotions: love and anger colliding. Vulnerability shines through as he reminisces on the things he loves, or loved, such as when he admits in “The Astrology of Running into Your Exes,” “As the beer bottle empties, it will remind you of her hand.” But the darker moments hold the strength of the collection, such as in “Emphysema,” where Bradley offers a metaphor for the melancholic emotional storm that accompanies this kind of loss:

Our pollution clings

to the walls of my

bedroom like a lung. Every

time the door wheezes and

coughs me out to the hallway,

I hope my sighs choke like canaries.

Bradley and Mazer strongly illustrate the torment of a messy breakup, fueled by both passion and anger. The Bones of Us ends up as a journal like confession that poignantly speaks of the darkest moments of a post-relationship state. Their collaboration of violently lascivious and anguished content lays everything out on the table: what is lost, what is lingering and even what it unspeakable.

Maria Dansdill– a young reader before writer who enjoys the classics but devours most anything she can get her hands on. If she’s not immersed in a book she’s surely jamming out to something folky. She’s a barista to make a buck and her hobbies include tennis, calligraphy and K-Dramas (^__^)