Poem of the Week | February 17, 2014

This week we offer a new poem by Bruce Bond. Bond is the author of nine published books of poetry, most recently Choir of the Wells: A Tetralogy (Etruscan, 2013), The Visible (LSU, 2012), Peal (Etruscan, 2009), and Blind Rain (LSU, 2008). In addition he has three books forthcoming: The Other Sky (poems in collaboration with the painter Aron Wiesenfeld, intro by Stephen Dunn, Etruscan Press), For the Lost Cathedral (LSU Press), and a book of critical essays, Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand (University of Michigan Press). Presently he is a Regents Professor of English at the University of North Texas and Poetry Editor for American Literary Review.
Author’s note:

Some days distortion is sweetness, as is clarity. They are the dissonance and resolution in the music of cognition. I love that feeling of déjà vu, in part because it comes rarely, but also because it has the beauty of quiet disorder to it, a sense that time is not a straight line, oppressive as the relentlessly narrative can be, but rather a place with halls and doors, an interior, where we might walk in multiple directions.

Some theories suggest that the experience of déjà comes from the processing of present experience in areas in the brain associated with memory. Others say the present triggers an associated memory that never arrives fully into consciousness. Both theories suggest the mind’s conversation with itself struggles across boundaries, and the fullness of the experience indeed feels that way. It has a little of that metaphysical mystique of simultaneous connection and eclipse. I suppose what I find meaningful and suggestive in both the sensation and our attempt to explain it is our powerful longing to see the seer. And in this case, the infusion of the past and present articulates not merely a distortion but also something critical about seeing—that it cannot help but come to us as mediated by the past, by desire as mother and child of our past.

So in this poem I wanted to engage this mingling of past and present (and future for that matter) in ways that evoke the abiding connectivity and disjunction that we feel powerfully in the difficult wonder of our gratitude and loss. I see dead people—who doesn’t—and the violence of the new that in its full context has never happened keeps invoking in me, in spite and light of that violence, memory’s gifts. The “blinding sun” at the end here—that too came from a love of paradox that I imagine as fairly universal. Blindness as light: our very language has a bit of that. Moreover there is a radiance to living always in multiple worlds, among immediacies and the many traces and expectations that give the act of seeing its mindfulness. Like freedom and conformity, the imagined and the real; continuity and loss keep resisting and invoking each other. After all, they have been married a long time. There is no music without them.


Déjà Vu

Perhaps it is our longing
to see the part that sees
coaxed out from its place
of hiding, like the shadow
page you soon will turn
to lay upon another.
Perhaps there is a bone
to mend, a heart we hardened
when we were far away.
The past is always out there—
we know that—and never is.
Forgiveness is difficult
for this reason. And sweet.
You see it everywhere,
the dead hand that brought you
into the world, the birth
cry you cannot remember.
Somewhere a wasp unzips
the air and we pass through.
No, you have never passed
this way before. And yet
this particular spoon,
with the ceiling fan
spinning in its eye,
is on the verge of something,
confessing its attachment,
taking you, like some
drunk exaggeration, back.
Try, it says, to feed
yourself in both worlds,
to give to both, fit in,
and so move about more
freely. As if we might
forget when we are
thinking of forgetting.
Or look a little closer
by looking at the act
of looking. We might, you know.
Try, say all the fathers
with their dying and ours,
to blaze without burning,
the way one sun blazes
with many suns, and none
so blinding as today.