Poem of the Week | November 03, 2014

This week we feature another poem from our current fall issue, 37.3. Bruce Bond is the author of fourteen books of poetry, including the forthcoming books For the Lost Cathedral (LSU Press), Sacrum (Four Way Books), The Other Sky (Etruscan Press), and Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand (University of Michigan). He has won numerous recognitions for his poems, including the Allen Tate Award, the TIL Best Book of Poetry Prize, the Richard Peterson Prize, the Knightville Poetry Award, and fellowships from the NEA and the Texas Institute for the Arts. Presently he is a Regents Professor of English at the University of North Texas and Poetry Editor for American Literary Review.
Author’s note:

The notion of the saved, like the notion of the holy, has always felt plagued by paradox for me, which adds to its potential for wonder, positivity, and harm. Is heaven indeed a gated community, unrecognized or not, a place that is by necessity haunted by the anxiety that engendered it? What good might come of how the would-be saved seek comfort in metaphors of exclusivity, communities of self, as part of a moral structure in conflict with its motives? What is it in our dreams and practice that allows for a more radical transfiguration of collective identity into eros? My desire in the poem “The Saved” is not to stand apart from the psychology of spiritual materialism and the hidden aggressions in institutions that, as organisms like us, long to survive. We are all resourceful in the transference of identity into that which is larger and survives. Anxiety is of course a universal problem at the root of all creative and destructive behavior. The mother in my poem is, for the most part, mine, a kind of queen of anxiety who likewise taught me my first lessons in love. Thus I am interested in finding my way as empathetically as possible into the longing to be chosen and preserved, to triumph over non-being, and yet to register in this longing an ethical summons less associated with the reification of identity. Might we be saved by some spirit of generosity that honors the metaphors of plurality and a loss of individual identity. Paradoxically exposure to the unconscious, to the illusions produced by ego, gives an ego strength in the good sense, the sense associated with courage and humility as forms of absence. Perhaps there is something healthy in dwelling with anxiety that is related to our ability to listen, to let go, to contain the opposites in imaginative life, how heaven has the power to articulate either love or tyranny by proxy. Might we inhabit the contradiction of finding self the moment we lose that self? Might we find restoration in some measure of the uncertainty that crippled us once, when so much of fear was self-reflexive, and so much of sacrifice all that our need for reassurance would allow?


The Saved


Once the burden of uncertainty grew
large enough to fill the sky it came from,
he lay down in the meadow and looked through
the clouds, all so much heavier than him,
the great white throne with an even greater
light upon it. He thought of his mother’s
stories of hell, how scared she was and sure
in the ways of bullets and what they shatter.
Then the sunlight filled each glass with milk,
and he drank turning white as bread and angels,
until he finally wore the color of music
and shook the way that music shakes a wall
or wind the fields that are the many heavens
of none now who hears his name among them.