The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Bruce Bond

Milton

 

Night falls, and Frankenstein the monster
is soldering the motherboard of a future

thinker, and little plumes of smoke sigh
as the metal softens, and the creature blows

across the eyes of what he calls his child.
He is sending smoke signals across a room

to the open window, where the dark wind
crackles through the leaves like a stranger

approaching or departing, he cannot tell.
And as he works, he thinks of Paradise

Lost
, how Adam’s father cast him out
of the wild that feasted on its own flesh,

where angels laid down in the lion’s den
and pretty monsters ran naked by the river.

And the creature turns to his cat and says,
it hurts me too, exile that I am, to hear

the apple’s cry: come, eat, we are all of us
hungry for something, skin to break, lines

to cross, a policeman’s tape to duck under.
We are lonely in the homeless shelter

workshop undiscovered in the garden.

It went something like that. Hard to tell.

Although his brain is one man’s brain, he thinks
with another man’s hand, cock, liver, scar,

another man’s tattooed cross on his shoulder.
The cat, when she stares, stares at them all

without judgment, or none the brain imagines,
her eyes slowly opening, closing, eating

the mask of light from his face. He says,
The blood of the apple was real blood then.

It swelled the veins of the man who knelt
to strap his father’s shadow to his back,

his father’s nails and hammers, old farm tools,
something said in anger or left unsaid.

And he would break the soil on all fours,

the creature says a little louder, and count

his days to the Sabbath, to the hymnal
rack and black book, the cradle for his knees.


Yes, a monster is no Milton. And yet,
a monstrous skull is no less the crucible

that grinds the spit and embers of a man
into another. Nature abhors a vacuum:

these genitals, this face, the holes and tender
stitch or staple, the Braille of wounds hands

infect. Whatever the stature, the powers
of invention are larger and make a body ache.

And just then the creature’s iron slips
and burns a finger, and he curses his father

without thinking. It just comes out like that,
out of the wild. The cat leaps, taking with it

confusion’s cry that is fire one moment,
smoke the next. And the motherboard says,

you know, Adam had a dream. He was alive,
and then he woke, and poof, the dream was life.

Knowledge hurts, it’s true, and yet it spreads
its bed beneath the same dark woods, same

leaves departing and arriving in the wind.

And the smoke in the monster’s eye weeps.

The monster watches. Soon, says the motherboard,
your finger’s pain will fade into a name

in Paradise. Monsters will be Miltons.
Machines will open up the mouths of graves.

Soon your father and I will be there, in you,
waiting. To which he says, thank you, mother,


and bows his head to her little city below.
He burns star to star in her firmament,

cursing and fumbling, and yet no monster,
a fine unruly wire in his too large hands.

 

 

 

BRUCE BOND is the author of sixteen books including, most recently, For the Lost Cathedral (LSU Press, 2015), The Other Sky (Etruscan Press, 2015), Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand (University of Michigan Press, 2015), Black Anthem (Tampa Review Prize, University of Tampa Press, 2016), and Gold Bee (Crab Orchard Open Competition Award, Southern Illinois University Press, 2016), Three of his books are forthcoming: Blackout Starlight: New and Selected Poems 1997-2015 (E. Phillabaum Award, LSU Press), Sacrum (Four Way Books), and Dear Reader (Free Verse Editions, Parlor Press). Presently he is Regents Professor at University of North Texas.

 

 

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