Bruce Bond is the author of thirty books including, most recently, Plurality and the Poetics of Self (Palgrave, 2019), Words Written Against the Walls of the City (LSU, 2019), Scar (Etruscan, 2020), Behemoth (New Criterion Prize, Criterion Books, 2021), The Calling (Parlor, 2021), Patmos (Juniper Prize, UMass, 2021) and Liberation of Dissonance (Schaffner Press, 2022). His work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including seven editions of Best American Poetry. Presently he teaches part-time as a Regents Emeritus Professor of English at the University of North Texas and performs classical and jazz guitar in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Wind with barely a world in its path makes no sound.
And then the banner lifts and flutters. The one hand claps.
Bronze comes invisibly to life, and the startled temple
mourns the missing hand. Who here is not a child of bells.
They blow to song the abstracts of men through the open
garret. Who is it now, I wonder. And the bells turn back
to stone. Today I watched a movie of the killing. I thought,
perhaps, it would make me wise, responsive, or, in excited
horror, prone to see suspicion blown into a monster. I
am just one hand after all. A man is there. I do know this.
Bones of light, flesh of shadow, and as the gun goes off,
the wind of the known trajectory blows an abstract of men
through the open lesion. Who here is not a child.
Fire moves through broken windows and the figures in
a riot, and the names get taken down or lost. Night burns.
Embers graze the eye, but the movie does not change.
Characters are cast, in bronze this time, committed, bound
to mistakes they made or suffered or deepened by neglect.
Those who walk the tear gas go unseen. Some are pulled
aside, questioned, searched, and never found. Others
hang in the heart of the bayou like bells, and no one hears.
Some walk the pathless walk of bronze in the tower.
Forward and back, the stride of the breath and the broom
and the hasp of the flag beaten into wind and cinders.
However singular the bullet and path of light, the door
in the body swings both ways. In. And farther in.
The banner claps the air, and somewhere men prepare
the body for the viewing. Flowers release their ghost.
Overhead you hear the silence on which a music lies.
It is template-hard, cold, steady as the embalmer’s table.
Say the widow is the one hand, her open bed the other.
The bronze that strikes her from her nightmare is the bell.
I have felt my own music overfill the vessel of the killer.
Whatever the misconception, it is looking for another:
a word to strike, a mirror, a wall. And now the movie
has come down offline. The children are sequestered.
The gun-metal river goes cold. Wind with barely a world
in its path fills and empties the needles of the valley.
Where there is a breath, there is an obstacle in its path.
America touches no one in particular and so a little of all.
It cracks as men in grief and office do. Every bell is
two bells, one silent, the other made of words that so miss
the world, they ask, look. They break us open, and then,
in tired voices, break, so full of promise, they cannot find us.
In a rumored portrait sketched by his neighbors,
Ludwig as a boy is weeping at the clavier.
He is standing on a footstool to reach the keys
where a father passes down the cruelty of perfection.
The music is in there, if you look hard, head
bowed, heavy as a lantern by a still night lake.
The cracks in the face of the ivories make
what we do not play a dark interior, a child
in a well, an eye in the eye-white context of snow.
In a rumored portrait, the clock forever chips
the rock in its path. Where this all begins—
the path, the dread, the music—is undisclosed,
as early childhood is, and before that, the practice
of switches and stung hands passed from fathers
to sons to those the songs we play imagine.
There is no mistake without the innocence
that makes it. Forgive me. I know. A boy
is weeping at the keys. His chords are gloves
he slips through into winter ice that jewels
the bitter angels of the field. Forgive me, winter,
whose cruelty is snow, whose absolution is
more snow. Forgive me, father of the man
whose only children are songs, portraits, drifts
drawn through the perfect stillness of our hands.
Winter cannot hear you. It is an emperor one
moment, and then the field behind the portrait.
The field behind the field. I am not difficult,
the composer said. Do not remember me that way.
Remember me driven from home, abandoned
here in the distance where we, in silence, meet.
And you, my beloved, imagine a snow of letters
falling into snow, words that enter the glove
of breath in December. Every winter is one now,
every visible whisper I never felt, each distant
promise in the season whose anger is a child.
No beginning without the nameless precedent
stumbling in a field. A future, that, as music,
never quite arrives. And the phrase before it
never leaves. Thus: this joy in praise of a joy
expected, mythologized, lost as words to a child
at the keys, head bowed above the shattered plaster.
Somewhere between the boy and the mask lifted
from his face at the end, the middle of a journey
improvised long hours at the instrument and gleaned
at best a sketch we call an opus, a body, a work.
Mostly it is invisible. This flesh. Each vital part
unreal to us until, that is, it fails. But sometimes
you can hear it: the flesh with its obscure interior
stepping into the sonata, mourning the silence
Fat either end. And our name for non-disclosure,
imperfectly, is soul. It is the deeper red of blood
before the harvest, before it saves another
or kills you, or both, before one boy’s grief
became the reverie whose end is just beginning.