- Ambition, and: Homage to Sebastian Stenzel
By the time I could walk, I was lordamong the infant lizards of my yard,though he, however tiny, was no less,more strong than I in solitude and silence,tough as a fugitive, swift as a broom.Not to say I did not frighten himthe way the cold in a father's voicemight frighten me, or worse, a father's absence.Or a lizard for that matter, that wetblister of the eye with me inside it.A child of power I was powerlessto resist, and as I reached and missed,his tail leapt off, the sudden self abandoned,flailing in horror the moment it was born.
Homage to Sebastian Stenzel
After the cedar died in the great fire,it stood for eighty years. A testamentto what the long neglected can endureif the roots go deep, the heartwood dense,grain woven, limbs upholding nothinglike a nervous system of the sky.
No need to clear the lion's share of damage,the land the blaze blackened for a season,though naturally they razed the crumpled home. [End Page 60] What the fire began, men completed,and there were those who were buried hereand there, and those who never reappeared.
What remained was the flame of sootthat climbed the tower, our useless miracle,guardian of those who stood in its shadowsand suffered without record, passing throughthe stories and nightmares of a fewfriends, neighbors, until they too passed on.
Nights, the long and stubborn musculatureswung its axe in the wind, laying lowa silence in the branches, and in the starsthat slept there, that burned for eighty years.It took a luthier to bring them down,to see in the tone-wood a slow growth
the winters made stiff and tight, idealin its resistance and yield, its open voice.So yes, he destroyed it, quarter sawn sothe monument might fall again, and again,over and over as song in the startledbraces of the instrument. Or so he hoped.
It takes a little faith to flex the finalcut, to tap it listening for some pitchto draw breath in the unspoken, to sayI am out there somewhere, as music isin the reticence of things. It takesan ember's patience to plane the wood just so,
to fit it over the casket, over the memoryof one note dying into the next,into some solitary conversation,the still bodies of those who listen, thosewho, for the moment they are listening,stand in the fire, made tall, and have no name. [End Page 61]
Bruce Bond's most recent and forthcoming collections of poetry include Choir of the Wells (Etruscan P), The Visible (LSU P), Peal (Etruscan P), and Blind Rain (LSU P). Presently he is Regents Professor of English at the University of North Texas and poetry editor for American Literary Review.