Back to Issue Nineteen.




Long ago a boy’s harp had the power
to move stones, not far, but far enough,

to give the dull world the look of life.
Or so say the myths of men, long dead,

who, for all we know, never lied, but played
on their lyres and our desire to know.

Any rock will tell you, music blossoms
from things until, it seems, they are its source.

Who is to say they aren’t, or one source
among the many.  A harp asks a question,

and the stone’s reply is never the stone’s
alone.  Nor the question.  Conversation.

All of it.  Tell me.  Why do questions rise
at the end.  Death, for one, turns to question

the underworld with a song that lifts
the frightened heart not far but far enough.

Some days music makes the better friend,
without the tiresome platitudes,

the false praise, the cold breath of heaven
that would tear the particular face

from grief.  Once there was a beautiful boy
whose gift for song came from somewhere else.

True, we called his music his.  It was.
And ours.  You hear it in the difficult

hours his mother spent gathering the pieces
of his unconscious body.  Stories say,

she kept the head, that part we imagine
was most his, that withered as hers alone.

Music is just one part of the story
that keeps departing and arriving, keeps

loss alive like an unanswered call.
The language before language, more quick

across the barricades of hell and nations,
the sound of names filled with nameless air.

When a boy plays his harp, a vein opens,
and while the harp does not understand,

it reveals.  It honors the stranger that is
a lover or child, and so opens the puzzle

of embrace.  Whose body is not torn
to pieces in time, whose time not the ardor

that music never masters but takes in
like this world’s broken traveler or bread.

Who does not take their liberties.  Let me
begin again, with her, the mother, whose name

some call immortal though we know better.
Long ago a god knelt in tender horror.

Nothing moved.  Not far but far enough.
On the wind the blood oranges in bloom.

Bruce Bond is the author of sixteen books including, most recently, Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand (University of Michigan Press, 2015), For the Lost Cathedral (LSU Press, 2015), The Other Sky (Etruscan Press, 2015), Black Anthem (Tampa Review Prize, University of Tampa Press, 2016), and Gold Bee (Crab Orchard Open Competition Award, Southern Illinois University Press, 2016). Three of his books are forthcoming: Blackout Starlight: New and Selected Poems 1997-2015 (E. Phillabaum Award, LSU Press), Sacrum (Four Way Books), and Dear Reader (Free Verse Editions, Parlor Press). Presently he is Regents Professor at University of North Texas.

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