The Invention of the Harp

The leanest sheep yield the toughest gut
and thus the strongest voice, the intestines

cleansed, extruded, bound into the dark
strings of harps that shiver, as storms do

and the closed eyes of animals that dream.
God knows what they see, if they hunger

for images of grass made of music, of wind
whose hand soothes with a gentle rustling.

Song began somewhere, we do know that,
and its voices tend to flock together

because they must, they want to continue
in each other, to survive as one

of the choir, to survive, as one, the choir.
The hungry are the most fierce, most alone,

long before they weaken from their hunger.
What they would not give to open up

the basilicas of mouths and swallow.
And the string made of gut remembers.

Even the blade that takes the lives of sheep
blazes the abject warmth of immersion,

the eyes that open when another’s close.
Music knows.   Departure is our calling,

our home, like the father’s funeral a boy
dreams for years until that day it happens.

The cry you hear is not song, but it tears
now and then through the body of song.

The harpist grasps a chord and pulls it
into the air, but it is the gut that makes it

fly.  The gut that lingers there, in the hand.
Hunger is always returning.  Just what

it returns is, most days, a wordless thing.
But today there is a singing in it.

There again the silent music, the body
that opens its box of sparrows at dawn,

and the sun that is a harp on fire
sends shivers through the cold hard ground.

 
 

Bruce Bond is the author of fifteen books including, most recently, For the Lost Cathedral (LSU, 2015), The Other Sky (Etruscan, 2015), and Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand (University of Michigan Press, 2015). Four of his books are forthcoming:  Black Anthem (Tampa Review Prize, University of Tampa Press), Gold Bee (Crab Orchard Open Competition Award, Southern Illinois University Press), Sacrum (Four Way Books), and Blackout Starlight: New and Selected Poems (LSU). Presently he is Regents Professor at University of North Texas.