» Poetry

Sun & Air



In Oregon once, the acolytes in saffron

sweatshirts and idolatrous medallions

made a vow to grow roots and change

address, to elect the man with the sunset

sport coat to serve as mayor and recast

community codes, to pull a nail here,

an ordinance there, the streets signs

of their Christian neighbors taken down

to make way for the Sanskrit of their master.

At last, the real estate of consciousness

was growing.  Less in communal rapture

and rage that climaxed in bewildered tears

than the watchful stillness that came after.

Surely there was nobility in this.

The lotus of their suffering flush, effulgent.

Somewhere a ribcage cools in a field,

stoned on love, that kind that lifts the fog

above its place on earth, but after that,

what?  The new human, the archetype

their teacher promised, what they were hoping

to become, what they feared the locals

in hunting gear and office would destroy?

And can you blame them.  Say a torch

broke the glass of your hotel in Portland

or a long sleeve poisoned the salad bars

of your town cafés.  Who would not feel

some shadow of their partisan nature fall

into the arms of your frightened kind.

I have been that child, that prideful victim

of my own outrage.  Call it the fitful

cleansing of a birthmark, the forever

failed extradition of histories of abuse.

Call it shell-shock; or war; or call it

what it is, salmonella and kerosene

and the scarlet seam of the unclean

lesion breaking, but do not call it new.

Puritans of permission raise their cries

as Christ does at the altar, disseminating

wine with a bitter summons to forgive.

Submission and refusal.  How better

to survive the next ice age or spiritual

contagion: a thicker coat, warmer meal,

a feast day between tribes; how better to live

and let live than deep inside a system

of guards to wave friends and family through.

The body of the chosen is a body

after all, and so in need of water, harbor,

seasonal fire and the couriers of sleep.

It shrouds itself in skin, as Bibles do,

and great redwoods, and the new human

laid beneath their limbs, a child of heaven

awakened from a scare to find herself,

transfixed, in a crystal of estrangement,

christened in the amber of dusk and dawn.





The holier the stone the more like stone

the power and resolve that laid it, there,

in the heart of the contested common.

The last of the temple King Solomon built.

So say the faithful in their signature black

though doubtless they understand: to build

a wall is no king’s work, but that of servants

who will go nameless, and if another god

claims his prophet hitched here his horse

with wings, there is little to say to make

a god recant, revise, or otherwise move,

to abandon a place like that.  The prayer

whispered or tucked into a hole in stone

might be, in installments, one long prayer,

incanted under the breath, and if it helps,

it helps, it mortars, mends, transmogrifies

the dullness of loss that makes a stone a stone,

a holy land a calf whose gold is blood.




Every comic dies now and then, but then,

if called, they rise, and folks remember best

the deeply wounded ones who made them

laugh like friends.  I am thinking of you,

Greg Giraldo, who told Joan Rivers once,

You used to look your age, now you don’t

even look your species.  And then her face—

wounded, tightened, paralyzed, stitched,

healed and babied with the finest lotions—

gave way, and I saw a little white light in

her teeth, a bit of joy, however nervously

touched, beyond the scalpel of this affront

or that desire to be young, I saw her death

in the arms of your addiction, the one

that took you too damn soon, to sit in heaven

and roast God, as your best friend put it,

as if nothing were sacred where everything is,

and each cold mask crumbles into laughter.




When I think of idols that have died,

I think of the toy my father saved from

his childhood, how it reddened his shelf.

Beside his picture with the governor,

a small truck with no one in it.  It served

as proof of the boy I never met, never

understood.  He had so little child

in him, let alone the sentimental kind.

You should always keep one reminder,

he said.  I always did, always thought

he loved me better when I was small.

Look at me, said all the rusted places.

And when he left us, they said it again,

look, but what they revealed remained

an empty promise.  But I could see it,

touch it.  It had wheels.  Hollow places.

When I think of death, I think of this.

And it flew into walls and drove right through.



Bruce Bond

Bruce Bond is the author of twenty-six books including, most recently, Blackout Starlight: New and Selected Poems 1997-2015 (E. Phillabaum Award, LSU, 2017), Rise and Fall of the Lesser Sun Gods (Elixir Book Prize, Elixir Press, 2018), Dear Reader (Free Verse Editions, 2018), Frankenstein’s Children (Lost Horse Press, 2018), Plurality and the Poetics of Self (Palgrave, 2019), Words Written Against the Walls of the City (LSU, 2019), and The Calling (FVE, Parlor Press, 2020). Forthcoming books include Patmos (Juniper Award, U of MA Press) and Behemoth (New Criterion Prize, Criterion Books). Presently he is a Regents Professor of English at University of North Texas.