For three days a woman paints her mother in the chill
of the funeral parlor, the doll of the mother’s body
open-jawed in the long astonishment that overcomes
the dying. God is in the small stroke, she says,
the unction of the oil, the aromatic solvent that taints
the air. She lays the death-mask of light angled just so
beneath the lead-white salve. God, she says in her
cathedral where every hymn is far too happy and afraid.
Every heart before an image of loss turns into the image
of a heart. It asks, are you there. Are the closets you
feared when you were small the same that gave you
refuge and toys. Do you give your doll your own lost name.
Bruce Bond is the author of twenty-seven books, including, most recently, Rise and Fall of the Lesser Sun Gods (Elixir Prize, Elixir Press, 2018), Frankenstein’s Children (Lost Horse, 2018), Dear Reader (Parlor, 2018), Plurality and the Poetics of Self (Palgrave, 2019), Words Written Against the Walls of the City (LSU, 2019), The Calling (Parlor, 2020), and Scar (Etruscan, 2020). His work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including seven editions of Best American Poetry. Four books are forthcoming, including Behemoth (New Criterion Prize, Criterion Books) and Patmos (Juniper Prize, University of MA Press).