Bruce Bond

Heaven’s Gate

            March 26, 1997

The end of the world has come and gone
and taken with it the suicidal sons

hidden in their beds, in clean black shirts
and wingéd Nikes, laid at heaven’s gate.

In each trouser, three quarters and a five
to pay the starship, to gather up these lives

entrusted to some oddly meticulous,
transactional plan that left its cash to us,

its anatomies to an empty mansion.
Vehicles, that is what they called them,

they who gripped each other like a problem.
It takes sacrifice to love perfection

more than love, blood and tears to level
the heart’s accounts into those of angels.

Sure, the end gives birth to many ends,
we know that, not all so quick to abandon

the mother far away who hears no news
for years. And then, at last, we all do.

The suicide hears a thing we cannot hear.
He narrows his aim. He squints. He disappears.

No cry to repent above the smoke of traffic.
Still the night sky would stiffen the back

of any kid who suffers his insignificance,
who pins a savior to the fiery silence.

Did it seem cruel, I wonder, or ungrateful,
as they washed down the phenobarbital

with prayers and vodka and slipped their heads
into the plastic. What was it the body said,

that the symbols of our cautionary hell
must find us without ceasing to be symbol.

The aliens and spacecraft of a higher life
are not cold. They are sad beyond belief.

There is another end, the one that says,
careful, love, there’s more to come: always

this decision to make like a bed, a gift,
an earth in the gardener’s hand that turns it.

Always death that is useful, fertile, but still
death, and so, like fantasy, cannot be killed.

Careful, the mother tells her child because
fire is fire, smoke smoke. Matter matters. Always

remember, says the fire. Remember, the smoke.
The end of the world is everywhere you look.

When my mother died, I walked and walked.
I lay down to sleep. And walked a little more.

Bruce 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). His books The Other Sky (poems in collaboration with the painter Aron Wiesenfeld, Etruscan), For the Lost Cathedral (LSU), and Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand (University of Michigan) are forthcoming. He is a Regents Professor of English at the University of North Texas and Poetry Editor for American Literary Review.
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