Bruce Bond

Skin and Arioso
November 28, 2019 Bond Bruce



I am sending off my blood for the story of who I am.

I am only human after all.

And a stranger writes me back to tell me.

I knew a woman who touched herself incessantly

to remind her hands that she was there.

There were bruises all over that vanished long ago.

When she abandoned all her narratives at night,

all that was left was nerves.

Not enlightenment.  Not the others in the room.

Not the long blackboard equation

wiped down to starless paradise below.

When a mind leaves a body, it leaves a body in the snow

and drifts deeper into refuge.

If you travel north far enough, you will find her.

Where the earth is not earth any more.

It is terrified sea and gleams with diamonds.

Every fear is a fear of nothing.




When my mother died, she left a drawer of calendars,

in every square,

her tiny script, angelic as a child

never is,

cold as light in a lonely office.

My pain, yours.

They keep telling us to leave.

Always another doctor to meet, a diagnosis

to address.

A deposition in the small melodic cursive

I never mastered.

The calendars, I burned them.

I told her that, as if she were there, inside the fire.

I gave them back.

Wherever there are bridges,

there will be flames to cross them.

Thank you, pain.  I will never forget.

Wherever there is mercy, skin.




If angels were made of music, surely they would vanish

as a measure of their character.

They would leave their symmetries
the way words leave
a pyre of books.

Or gods who leave by candlelight
the damned,
if angels were tinier, more afraid.

If they cut their robes to shreds

or poured their sacks of teeth

into shapes our bodies give them.

Mouths would empty and fill and empty
like trains
among the lions of the colonnades.

If they were us,
they would say, go back,

and call it progress.




When I lose my bearings, I find my body

as one of the bare necessities

that have a note
of loss in them.

Song that is always early,
a little late.

A little joy
as one of the essentials.

Bandage, tourniquet, disinfectant, song.

You never know.

To the woman with a knife in the bath,

the angel on the needle,

the friend who killed
with me
bottle after bottle,

the song replies,

You never know.





Flowers for the tomb, flowers for the lyric soprano,

flowers for the parlor
with its portrait

of flowers.
I hate to leave and say so
on pianos
that bear the shock of flowers every spring.

I hate the prayers
that speak
a tongue foreign to the flesh
they pray for,
our mouths stuffed with flowers.

He is with his god,
says the priest about a friend
who had no god.

Dust blossoms and falls,
hours, months, years, it falls,
and never quite falls down.

When a flower fades, it bows.


Over earth, we say, meaning one
small portion, bound
by that.

One scent behind the petals as they fall,

one snow path
of the bridal gown.

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).