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Bruce Bond

02-18-2012

Native Tongue

To glimpse it lounging in the red clay,
blind as a worm and skinless, shot through
with bluish veins and a craze of fibers,
any wonder we tend to conceal it? 
To feel the full length of it, the appalling

ligament braided in our throat and bound there,
so tempting just to bury it in words,
and why not? The way it beats itself 
senseless, flitting about like a bird
in a closet, what life is that? And whose?

Still you must confess: it's less disquieting 
than going tongueless, and life enough 
to rise up in spite of us, peering 
over the rims of teeth, anxious to please. 
God knows what possesses it to try,

as if it could tunnel back to some world
it lost, some day when it was little but 
hunger and nonsense and the body tangled
in its root felt less intimate or strange. 
Given time it became the odd sister

of our two hands, a kind of bridge between
the body and the air that walks it.
And we swore-it was all we could do-nothing 
would tear this wick from the lamp of the skull, 
this rude animal from a swarm of angels.

           -first appeared in Radiography

Postcard of Atomic Bomb Test, Yucca Flat, 1953

Say there is an explosion so great it shakes off 
its boom and tremor and the voices 
of those who watch huddled in their thin coats, 
shivering, thrilled, stiff as matches,
and where they stand just shy of the cattle wire 
they feel a broken aftermath of air
breezing through them in a fine snow.

Then just as suddenly you are there 
and you've always been there, 
a printed figure on a postcard snapshot, 
made ancient, beautiful in your smallness 
like a water boy under a Japanese mountain, 
your legs shimmering in a photo blur, 
under your feet a plate of floodlight.

You feel yourself rising like a morsel, 
a slice, something offered to a guest, 
and all around you the desert cicadas 
freeze up in their armor, and every desire 
is the gray night coming into focus.
A kind of blessing, you tell yourself, 
how nothing so still could be true

or complete, as if the world's crust
were the ashen face in an open casket-
illusion really, a shadow play, 
and that's why you stare, gazing out 
through smoked lenses at the dry 
cloud blooming in the distance, 
because to stare this long and hard

makes the night sky sheer, translucent, 
the sky and the tiny pins of ink 
that hold you to it. It is 1953. 
You are whispering something under your breath.

Every day is a day in June 
at twilight. This is only a test, 
you tell yourself, only a test.

             -first appeared in Radiography 

 

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