Picture a dark fugue of interiors,
and there in each the long slits of windows
as imagined from the outside—an alley,
or the many versions of an alley,
as if the city fell from a great height
and shattered strangely, neatly into shards,
so what you get is a universe,
ordered, yes, but whose violence
of accident yields a certain hope,
a play, where tiny brushstrokes of no
one shade tell us there is freedom here.
And at the corner of our sanctuary
looking in, a man, the only stain
of red, poised to enter the solitary
gate, to dwindle like a prayer, a flame.
It is 1914. The alley narrows.
The prow of it cuts a sea of clouds.
And if you look hard, the night suggests
some rough shape at the vanishing:
a second man perhaps, his back to us,
a soldier, a thief, or just a superstition,
a hole at the tapering end of things.
Perhaps the shadow of our protagonist,
a charred fragment, having wandered off
into the distance, swallowed by the maze.
Picture happiness here, the painter said,
I do, though who among us wouldn’t pour
through all these unlit windows, these cracks
in joy, careful to keep our voices low
as if history were out there, lightly sleeping.
Take me with you, says the red to the black.
Somewhere the distant cannons of the storm.
Take me, says the fire to the smoke,
the man to the shadow, the one who sees us,
flees us, leads us on, the one whose face
keeps disappearing the moment that he turns.
Bruce Bond is the author of thirty books, most recently Scar (Etruscan Press, 2020), T**he Calling (Parlor Press, 2021), Behemoth (Encounter Books, 2021), winner of the New Criterion Prize, and Patmos (University of Massachusetts Press, 2021), winner of the Juniper Prize. His other books include Words Written Against the Walls of the City (Louisiana State University Press, 2019), Plurality and the Poetics of Self (Palgrave, 2019), Dear Reader (Parlor Press, 2018), Frankenstein’s Children (Lost Horse Press, 2018), Rise and Fall of the Lesser Sun Gods (Elixir Book Prize; Elixir Press, 2018), Blackout Starlight: New and Selected Poems 1997-2015 (E. Phillabaum Award; LSU, 2017), Sacrum (Four Way Books, 2017), Gold Bee (Helen C. Smith & Crab Orchard Awards; Southern Illinois University Press, 2016), and Black Anthem (Tampa Review Prize; University of Tampa Press, 2016). His work has appeared in seven editions of The Best American Poetry. He is Regents Emeritus Professor of English at the University of North Texas. (updated 4/2022)