Bruce Bond

Contagions of the Visible
September 26, 2016 Bond Bruce

Contagions of the Visible


In the optics of the dark ages, the eye

was the window to the world’s infections


and light the host, the carrier of nightmares

across all barricades, real or imagined.


Misery was airborne, less in the spirit

of some stray cough or invisible flea


than as image whose arrows of empathy

and contagion pierced the target eye.


A body knows, or imagines it knows,

the world as hostile, long before we love it,


and turns from fear or the homeless addict,

one of the many who multiply down


the parks and open markets of Berlin.

The gallop of the physical heart stung


by light, it keeps pounding at something

like a point half justified or clear,


half a reason to look or look away.

The logic of boundaries and their downfall


is half no logic at all. Sight is fast.

What I look at when I look away,


it reveals me. Long before I know as much.

It spreads an epidemic of horror and prayer


that bind the many, as tragedies do,

and then, as nights continue, not so much.


But what did I expect. In the optics

of loss and exhaustion, things are closer


than they appear. Or is it farther. Cut

into small and smaller pieces. The real.


The imagined. They wander opposite paths

among the black gowns in the churchyard,


among the living in whom the trees walk.

And are walking still. Any wonder


eyes tremble in their sleep, or the grave

digger’s cart goes chirping through the parish.


The boy in this dream refuses to see

the dream is over. The coughing in a near room


gone silent now. The living and the lived:

they wander opposite paths at daybreak,


and for a time he lies there in the space

between them. Like a battlefield in bloom.


The only sound the sound of leaves. Turned.

Brought down in waves on the unseen shore.

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), Liberation of Dissonance (Nicholas Shaffner Award for Literature in Music, Schaffner Press, 2022), and Invention of the Wilderness (LSU, 2022).