This lamb, that marble child, whatever you
            desire, the stonecutter will take your order.
He will make you something to remember,
            said my mother, and then she disappeared.
Swallow the small things, she would say,
            but everything is small tonight, every star
on the hood of the curtained limousine.

            If I could deepen the hole in my throat, I
would lay there a box of ashes in a blanket.
            I would call my offering personal, or talk
to earth the way an actor talks to a phone
            we know is disconnected. Our acre fills
with sentimental verses pressed into these
            stubborn templates where, here and there,
a host of smaller stones crowns the others.

            The common rock is everywhere, artless,
unlettered, its door shut against the eye.
            The better to bear the ache of the movie
you are in, the one you see in the random
            barrier, the cliff whose screen you fill
with monuments of light, and in the morning,
            as faces fade, you call them, carry them.
You carve. You wear a mask of white powder.

            What do constellations know of the souls
they pin together, or gods who never lived
            to see their burning bodies turn against them.
When my mother grew incomprehensible,
            I leaned so close I felt, as she struggled,
her breath against my ear. I turned to stone.
            I carved her image when the dark returned.

Every sky was one, then two, as it passed
            through the boundaries of my eyes, then
a pair of skies rivered back into a brain
            that mended them, carried them, but not
without the loneliness that never was a sky.
            Mourners river the reliquary garden
where two and one become a single number
            with a shiver inside, a blur like strings
of instruments in concerts for the dead.

            A pair of birds turns to one, and the song
becomes the lost bird, the long bewildered.
            All that marble for innocents with wings
they cannot use. But a real child posed once.
            In dust across the studio floor, a sculptor
draped a daughter’s hand across a lute
            whose music survives in the curves of fabric,
the smooth brow that owes its affinities
            to a charity of attentions, how he read
with his fingers the surface of the marble.

            A breed of listening then, the girl inside
the stone his own, once, and then, as is
            his calling, she could be anyone’s child,
any spirit left to kneel at the threshold.
            With each tap of the chisel, each dimple
in the angel’s eye, a little light poured in.
            And we know how that feels, how a heart
begins to shudder, the moment we are seen.





Bruce Bond is the author of 35 books including, most recently, Patmos (Juniper Prize, UMass, 2021), Behemoth (New Criterion Prize, 2021), Liberation of Dissonance (Schaffner Award for Literature in Music, Schaffner, 2022), Invention of the Wilderness (LSU, 2023), Therapon (with Dan Beachy-Quick, Tupelo, 2023), and Vault (Richard Snyder Award, Ashland, 2023), plus two books of criticism: Immanent Distance (UMI, 2015) and Plurality and the Poetics of Self (Palgrave, 2019). Among his forthcoming books are Lunette (Wishing Jewel Prize Editor’s Selection, Green Linden), The Silent Conversation (Vern Rutsala Prize Editor’s Selection, Cloudbank), and The Dove of the Morning News (Test Site Poetry Award, U of NV).

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