from Dear Reader
Dear shush of oceans, page after page, you
who make me feel more fortunate and small,
I too am setting out, my eye lit up
to the horizon with all that never arrives.
I eat my books with a hunger that rivals
the sadness of monsters in books. I am nowhere
without them: the beasts who never die.
They gnaw at me like oceans at the shore.
Dear ocean wave, I am reading your letter
the letter I am reading. The shore advances.
The shore retreats. Our breath is everywhere.
Perhaps I would be more full of monsters
if not for songs that make them bearable.
Or books that spill the blood they would conceal.
To be one is odd, and one over one
still one, cold as the numbers ledgered
down the long column of last effects.
And it takes a little cold beauty to think
a violence reducible to what it means.
A knife as particular, it is silent, swift,
stubborn as the rock the philosopher kicks
in defiance of world as slumber and idea.
Cruelty has a face. It has the neighbor
window to mirror ours before we vanish.
But murder is schooled in years of evasion
of one’s pain and the faces it lays bare.
It is cold as light the neighbor finds
shameless, sexless. A sharper way to read.
About now the monsters grow more lovely
and why not. Why suffer the transfusion
of our blood into their bodies on high.
All the tension in the banter has come
to this, to the moment that draws the couple
closer with the violence of a new song.
About now the monsters walk among us
as dolls and children and the great night sky,
stars that pin our stories to the dark.
And if the star looks a little anguished
at the moment of union, it is not instinct
as the thoughtless know it, but one that tears
loose of thought, or blossoms into cries,
hearts leaping in one wilderness, like deer.
When I was young, I knew there were ideas
that laid their faces on the face of night.
I felt the cataract of daylight falling
into privacies of sleep. One enormous
wilderness, so long as we are sleeping.
I knew this, as dream sometimes knows
it is dreaming, when the knowledge is not
dream alone. Some nights blur into one
night, one long rehearsal for retirement.
No doubt I want more choices at that hour,
in reveries more odd than liberated.
Dear Reader, I have not forsaken you,
the idea of you, for the rule of language
we break now like glow sticks in the dark.
Together is darker than the word that takes
its place. To cast a shadow over the page
you read, over the body you lie against,
it makes understanding more personal,
in ways that instinct or the known alone
is not. Instinct that is water falling
into water. Or so we understand
when reflection calls the falling ours.
I chime a spoon of meat into a bowl
in the morning and my one cat makes
the sound of sneakers in the gym. Then
her sweet plea disappearing in the bowl.
Instinct that is the star consumed at dawn,
the pretext of our silence. More deep than long.
The small death, it becomes us. It becomes,
in time, our great absorption into no thing.
You with your mouth, me with my echo there,
there, we are giving in to space between us.
The small death between lovers in a car
parked at the edge of shore, it empties them.
Death as the blossom drawn through the eye
of the vase, through the clear black glass.
It holds so little in its grasp, the zero
of the cathedral rose that holds us to it.
Why we call it ours is anyone’s guess:
the death that names our life before a life.
My first word was a figure against a ground.
And in it: you. The hunted, wanted, feared.
Somewhere the chime in the morning bowl
calls the animal to what it does not
understand. And yet it reads. It eats.
It hears the light of dawn break like bread.
Long ago, when my friend was gone,
I fed his cats. I watched them grow more
and more excited to see me in the morning.
Not me as some deep recess to explore,
the word-closet who thinks of them in closets.
But as emergent: the emergency color
of one of many blooms a bee might choose.
That hum of the swarm selects. It finds
the better fields of the many and turns
them into honey. Thus the language of bees.
Thus these bees as readers in a library
of illuminated books. Not quite friends,
though as I read, the books I love feel
more as I feel, their pages worn dark
along the margins, their illustrations burned
in me, like roses in a patch of snow.
I give my face to them, to the color
they return to letters and all who write them.
Take this book of hours I am reading
as we speak, these winter scenes radiant
as midnight diners. When I close its cover,
I continue to hold a lantern in the dark
instinctual fire that melds: word to world,
heaven to earth. Sweet animal to bowl.
I choose to remember days that choose me
in return. Take this hour, this gardener
in a book of prayers. Take the blue
of winter, figured against the lifeless ground.
Dear memory, who if not you invents
a language, deep in the bodies of others.
Who makes some sense of ours. The rain that falls
(though the hole of one particular sky)
it just might reach us long after storm.
It just might be a child of experience
that drizzles in shadows into pools of light.
No task at hand to change this. No summons
of collective praise or lack of praise.
No wound washed clean in the blood of seeing.
The ghost-face of what we suffer lies
across the glass between us. Who am I
to strike my eye from the eye I strike,
to strike the words I feel ashamed of.
Stranger, have you been there all along.
Hard for me to imagine otherwise
and still have things I need to discuss.
Ink dries. Then it welters in the eye.
Lamplight needles and threads the pearls of rain.
At least this is the hope. The lantern held
by the dark incisions of ink on white.
Always more, says the skeptic hope.
Like despair that way. The desire
that learns it cannot, must not, be desired.
Always more, say the afterlives of two
in the dark. Always more, the smoke
they blow through a quietude of words.
And in the dome above them, the stars
that care for no one. It makes them sharp
as jewels, their lives small and fortunate.
Not that desire needs to die to make it
light. But there is always more around it.
More, says the boy at meditation
whose prospect of arrival must be hopeless.
More, my friend once said to himself
and so he drowned himself in wine. His body
an empty bottle he emptied bottles into.
As if to complete the circle. And close.
More, says the character who transfers
stones from pocket to pocket, finding
comfort in the recursive machinery
of progress. More, says the artificial
friend who, in death, is more of the same.
Just listen to the clock at the far end
of the conference table. The broken hand
inside that twitches, audibly, in place.
Numbers alone are literal, it says,
alone in the dull pastorals of phonebooks.
All we like sheep. Numbers alone.
Sweet autistics of the sign kingdom.
They play a music with no music in it.
Only a description, an effigy, a stone.
Bruce Bond is the author of eighteen books including, most recently, Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand (U of MI, 2015), For the Lost Cathedral (LSU, 2015), The Other Sky (Etruscan, 2015), Black Anthem (Tampa Review Prize, U of Tampa, 2016), Gold Bee (Helen C. Smith Award, Crab Orchard Award, Southern Illinois University Press, 2016), and Sacrum (Four Way Books, 2017). Four of his books are forthcoming: Blackout Starlight: New and Selected Poems 1997-2015 (E. Phillabaum Award, LSU), Rise and Fall of the Lesser Sun Gods (Elixir Book Prize, Elixir Press), Frankenstein’s Children (Lost Horse Press), and Dear Reader (Free Verse Editions). Presently he is Regents Professor at University of North Texas.