Passenger by Stephen Bunch

Passenger

Disconnected, all empathy bleeds
out, mass extinctions nothing in
the shadow of the personal.

The objects of attachment fall
away with the climb, the acceleration—

sheltering rooftops, playgrounds,
streets, cars, pools, the nervousness
of commerce—

then dissipate with the clouds.

Free will long since bartered
for desire, landing is an abstract
possibility but unlikely at this point.
Going is all, all
is gone.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: This poem’s grim narrative drags the reader along until the brutal end.

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In Second Life by Stephen Bunch

In Second Life

In Second Life the footnotes
have toenotes, all meaning
reduced to an imprint in the loam,
the loam itself an interglacial residue,
but less abstract than sand
in an hourglass, the beauty
and complexity of loss.

And lost in translation between
lives, the Stranger walked the road
to Emmaus, not seeking
healing hot springs but rather
the travelers on their seven-mile
worried way from the Earthly City.
“Stay with us. The day
is nearly over.”
With the breaking of bread
the flesh quickened, the Unknown
became Known, then disappeared,
leaving a residue of spirit
and corporeal suspicion,
no footprints marking the dust.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: This poem raises more questions than it answers—life/game, footprints/spirit, reality/residue.

From the archives – American Numerology by Stephen Bunch

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American Numerology

52

A Mayan epoch, cards
in a deck, weeks
in a year, the atomic
weight of chromium,
not the Korean chrome
on the straight-eight
Pontiac, not the atomic
weight on Eniwetok,
while Nixon played
Checkers. Eisenhower’s
first, Lucy’s first, no
lynchings for the first
time since 1882,
but shortly Boeing’s
bombers excavating Vietnam,
back to the stone age, ivories
pounded, all the white
notes, shaking that love
shack, baby, the hexagram
that directs, “Keep still, no
blame,” shuffle and deal.

76

It’s a short drive to Whitman’s
bridge from the Liberty Bell
but a long haul to cheese-steak
independence, a declaration
of trombones on parade
in the hinterlands.
Longer still for Halley’s ellipse,
two countdown steps
from heaven, when homo
erectus intersected
string theory, and a nuclear peanut
farmer lusted in his heart
and said so. All the way,
the four-lane’s lined with signs
bearing freedom’s number,
promising petroleum
and clean restrooms forever.

49 (for Joy)

In Petaluma, poultry
emerged from Sutter’s golden
egg. Rushing miners modeled
Levi’s. A century later,
Hiroshima plus four, mon
amour, seven squared,
booming, genes
photogenic, we were born.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, March 28, 2016 — by Stephen Bunch

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Articles of Faith by Stephen Bunch

Articles of Faith

As if words, not works, could save,
whether definite or not,
they wrestle angelic abstractions
somewhere between Egypt and Emmaeus,
between mud brick and belief, blood
river and any familiar stranger.
They make implicit ex-, make ineffable
inevitable as, say, Earth’s
rotation or clock on nightstand.
When omitted they still haunt
phrase and sentence, invisible
made visible, absent
present, telegrammatic,
less cryptically clipped
than Confucian analects but still
mere whispers, rumors, naysayers to doubt.
Scissored from magazines and pasted
into ransom notes, they claim authority
but fail to yield certainty, fail to give solace,
fail to work save as words.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: Most poems about words (and faith) are unnecessarily omphaloskeptic, but not this one.

Pushcart Prize Nominations – 2016

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I am happy to announce the following poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize:

In Sicily, On the Road to Gela by Carol A. Amato
American Numerology by Stephen Bunch
June Twenty-First by Bruce Guernsey
Slack Traffic by Martin J. Elster
Visitation by Jo Angela Edwins
Hurricane by Bayleigh Fraser

Congratulations and good luck!

Repossessed by Stephen Bunch

Repossessed

When the repo man came for the Malibu
he couldn’t have noticed
the tuft of hair caught in the trunk lid.

He could have been distracted that night
by the refractions of the Aurora Borealis
or the boozy harmonies of the barbershop quartet
rehearsing in a garage off the alley.
He might have been startled
by the sputtering streetlight
reflected in the baby moon hubcap.

He couldn’t have known his wife was missing,
or his girlfriend,
along with the tire iron from his truck.

Later that night at the diner,
he saw the patrol car pull into the lot,
heard the waitress call his order to the cook,
“Put out the lights and cry”
and “mystery in the alley.”

Sentenced to life, every night thereafter
he’d lie awake trying to remember
the northern lights above the mercury lamps,
the voices singing “You Tell Me Your Dream,
I’ll Tell You Mine,” trying to smell
the liver and onions, reliving his history
as short order hash on the side.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: This poem opens and closes with repeated imagery, creating an emotional framework as the narrative moves from one moment to an unhappy future.