The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Bruce Bond

The Stars of Los Angeles

 

The city of angels is buried in exhaust
at the edge of the ocean where starlets live.

Some of them worship the sun with oil
and mirrors to turn them dark, the blood

stirred beneath an image of health, youth,
and finally, corruption. Another winter,

another rose. And I was born there,
I write on my retirement application,

though there is so much smolder, long ago,
and once it clears the homes are full of strangers.

*

Always another Hollywood marriage,
another star slipping through the arms

of starlets, with all the stress of living
on the set and pretending as lovers do

in the movies. As a boy, I loved ideas
I thought were girls, and movies shot nearby,

with sets I recognized and girls I didn’t.
Even my town was a place far away,

like sun on your skin, a radio in the sand.
A disc of fire enlarged against the skyline.

*

As a boy, I saw Raquel Welsh
in some talk show where the ice of her

composure broke. And if you are good,
she said, I just might give you a kiss.

Her host paused, failing to respond,
and you could see in her face the scared

awkward beauty of a childhood need
stripped down to television silence.

Pity the angels, it would say. They give
to love a face and take it down again.

On a starlet’s vanity: a rose, a script,
a bald mannequin waiting for its hair.

*

The stars of Los Angeles are fading
against the ambient smoke of light.

Sleep has no illusions. You are ready
or not. No man of means can buy his way.

No fabricated coma to slip into
at will. And out. Sleep with its illusions.

And sometimes you see a celebrity
biography, a Vogue, a script of pills.

And sometimes it gets so bad, sleep
so far away, the pill that works works

too well. And you ask yourself what.
What did I dream. Or did I dream at all.

 

 

Bruce Bond

The Snows of Los Angeles

 

Go ask the cities where the sirens rise
and fall so daily now they turn to suns.

When Oppenheimer saw what he made,
its wind blown through their goggles on the plains,

he thought of Shiva: If the radiance
of a thousand suns were to burst at once.


Not the paramour with glacial skin
no creation’s drum in one hand,

the iron of the trident in the other.
What Oppenheimer saw was horror thrown

in one direction, hymen broken, beauty
crossed, fire’s axis driven into earth.

*

I knew so little of a cross like that,
when, years later, we hid beneath our desks.

The world was full of Shivas. I was told,
make yourself safe, small. You will be fine,

they said. You who were no one before
a you, before your father led you down

the basement stairs. Welcome to your new home
beneath the fallout of Los Angeles.

When I thought of Russia, I felt cold.
I am become death, said Shiva. Becoming

Shiva. Becoming a day when heaven goes
to paradise. Or hell. When god starts over.

*

Hell I understand. But do you want
the man with the finger on the button

believing in paradise. In a failed
ecology of choices. I tell my stories,

you are not alone. A father leads you
to the basement still. He pulls the handle

on the freezer, dips his hands in light.
In the ah of winter. Every December,

a light snow christens Los Angeles still.
And it is not real snow. And so it lasts.

 

 

Bruce Bond

Revelation

 

Hello, dear world, says the sky at dawn
as if world meant earth, and earth a place,

our place on the whole we never see.
A sphere that, turning toward us, turns away,

Like a song. Or an effigy of song
that fades behind the fiery horizon.

I never hear the part of me that sings
or speaks on behalf of those who listen.

Just another reason I sing again:
to turn the music over like a planet.

Long ago I lived in the center
of the world because I was a child

who died into an older child, a me
afraid of one and not the one I was.

Every child a pin in the wheel
of the sun’s passage, its sacred curve

closed, with no beginning, no end,
surviving the ash of circular things.

*

Giordano Bruno burned alive less
because earth, as he saw it, circled the sun,

than because he saw beyond the sun
the civilized planets no myth before had seen.

Only a theory, he knew, but the one
he would not take back. He never will.

Hello, dear world, says the holy city,
and the evangelical tourist bus

smokes and idles at the wailing wall.
and someone raises a hand, and the questions

have answers, and answers no question in return.
Around here a story means the world

to those afraid of burning, with their books.
And the rooftops spread their rugs in the sun.

*

Evangelicals from the new age
keep pouring from their buses to see the basin

where their story ends. Half of seeing
is believing, the other the small sad

plain where no one lives. For all we know.
A lady asks, what happens to the Jews

who help the Christian fight the infidel.
She feels the small sad horror of a girl

or two, though the billions are more
difficult to imagine, to frighten, to mourn.

Half of believing is the empty flatland,
the other the stars that burn into focus,

and food is scarce, and birds miracles
of survival who scatter from our path.


*


Half of believing is a story afraid
to end. And yet afraid to never end

the way some fear silence. Some release.
When a tower roars to pieces, the ground

burns with a billion scattered narratives.
What history would not give to needle

the flesh together with a mother’s hand.
What a mother would not give. Dear god,

says the silence on TV in the mall.
A fire in the woods, and we its children.

Sometimes silence is the better story.
Everything is holy. Or nothing at all.

 

 

 

BRUCE BOND is the author of twenty books including, most recently, Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand (U of MI, 2015), Black Anthem (Tampa Review Prize, U of Tampa, 2016), Gold Bee (Helen C. Smith Award, Crab Orchard Award, Southern Illinois University Press, 2016), Sacrum (Four Way Books, 2017), and Blackout Starlight: New and Selected Poems 1997-2015 (E. Phillabaum Award, LSU, 2017).   Presently he is a Regents Professor of English at University of North Texas.

 

 

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