Elegy for W.S. Merwin

I knew a man who cut his chest each night
        to let the animal scamper out,

alone, and sniff the corners of the dark,
        until it had no corner, no harbor,

no name, only an aurora of smoke
        about the creature whose breath

shadowed the emptiness, so long as the man
        whose heart it was could breathe.

I never knew another who felt as close
        to those quick as a candle to flicker out

at first sight, or eat, in stealth, his berries,
        as stars are eaten, and leave no sign,

no gratitude, come dawn. I want to say,
        with every companioning departure,

a wound closed, a question opened,
        though I know this is, at best, half-true.

If he filled with cautionary wonder,
        he filled the way a well fills with voices

foreign to wells, or the gulches of the south
        with the rain of a distant county.

So long as he was breathing, he would hear
        in the throats of hills the sirens

of some home emergency coyotes know
        only by its howl, forgotten

until now, and by the beacon’s arrow
        through the canyon of the blind facades,

the light that cut, blood, lock, and sternum,
        to save the beast they cried for.





Bruce Bond is the author of twenty-seven books, including, most recently, Blackout Starlight: New and Selected Poems 1997-2015 (L.E. Phillabaum Award, LSU, 2017), Rise and Fall of the Lesser Sun Gods (Elixir Book Prize, Elixir Press, 2018), Dear Reader (Free Verse Editions, 2018), Frankenstein’s Children (Lost Horse, 2018), Plurality and the Poetics of Self (Palgrave, 2019), Words Written Against the Walls of the City (LSU, 2019), and The Calling (Parlor, 2020). Five books are forthcoming, including Behemoth (winner of New Criterion Poetry Prize, Criterion Books) and Patmos (winner of the Juniper Prize, U of MA Press).

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