Spring 2014, Volume 16

Poetry by Bruce Bond


Nature is no mirror.  And so we look
for comfort there the way the hand astray
looks to its twin, or the gaze of the sick
to the white light of the doubtful x-ray. 
Survive, says the irregular pulse,
or the breast excised to save the other,
to tip toward life the pans of the balance.
When I was a kid, I asked my mother
about death.  She whispered, it’s nothing really.
I do not think she was talking to me.
And she was never more beautiful, uncertain
as she leaned in close beneath her burden.
Strange how a body appears out of nowhere
once it is touched by something stranger.


Ever since he heard his mother whisper
the breath of nonsense that became his name,
it took on a power half his, half another’s,
out there on the dark of tongues beyond him.
And though it felt good to know he had one
so that he might be chosen, summoned, missed,
it appeared a little nervous at social functions,
a little strange, the way it brought up the past
and dwelled on it, in it, where no boy could. 
Nights when the wind shuddered the cold glass
and would not sleep, he thought, well, at least
I have a name.  And then the name shuddered
thinking, at least I have a boy.  And together
they slept, mended in dreams that would go nameless.


Perhaps he trusted it too much, his name,
to carry something of his torch without him,
to get up and walk when he could no longer,
the last star cradled like a violin,
like the skin that holds his heart’s blood in.
One name, one body, apart from the others,
and therefore worthy, aching to be given.
But something in the voice of another,
in the way she called, not him, but God,
and then again, to crown their little death,
said the old skin had been broken for good.
And in the aftermath they took their breath
more freely, being wordless, like a prayer
that listens, stripped and winded, swallowing air.


When the earth shook the village to its knees,
those with strength enough dislodged the bricks,
torn between their caution and their need
to move so much, so fast, listening for dark
signs: a voice, a cry, anything that breathed.
Faith too had a lifespan.  All that dust
that greyed the surgical masks they wore,
not to mention the stifled words that passed
between them.  Still it spread for miles, this flare
of news and ashes, this carnation of air,
so slow to clarify as it traveled.
A curtain, and yet a common atmosphere
that gathered in the lungs of birds that fell,
like stones, in untold thousands to the world.

Here Be Monsters

If the sea monsters on ancient maps
have more to say, it is this.  Take heart,
there are lives out there, beyond the lip
of the wave, the earth, the medical chart.
True, what we do not know can hurt us. 
It shadows the girl exiled to her closet,
whose punishment there breeds the serpents
of the sleeves.  But they too are prisoners.
Take heart, say the sleeves, there is more
to dark than what the darkness takes away.
A battered ship cuts the farthest water
like bread.  There is a vital breed out there:
a maker’s will, the hammer-heavy waves
pounding starlight on the unmarked shore.

Kafka’s Dream

The day Franz Kafka visited the dead,
he saw no Franz among them.  Only the spacious
vault of coffins, one of which was just
pushed open, forsaken as an unmade bed.
And at the desk beside a candle, a man
looked up, pen in hand, the page below
equally abandoned, and he shadowed
the watch that rose to meet him on its chain.
No, not Franz, this man, but someone larger,
some sky that laid its stars in the river. 
Wind blew the candle like a wish on fire. 
Somewhere a charwoman swept.  You could hear
the whisk in the distance.  Time looked up.
Somewhere a sweeping with nothing left to sweep.




BIO: Bruce Bond is the author of nine published books of poetry, most recently Choir of the Wells: A Tetralogy (Etruscan, 2013), The Visible (LSU, 2012), Peal (Etruscan, 2009), and Blind Rain (LSU, 2008). In addition he has three books forthcoming: The Other Sky (poems in collaboration with the painter Aron Wiesenfeld, intro by Stephen Dunn, Etruscan Press), For the Lost Cathedral (LSU Press), and a book of critical essays, Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand (University of Michigan Press). Presently he is a Regents Professor of English at the University of North Texas and Poetry Editor for American Literary Review.