After the Storm by Stephen Bunch

After the Storm

Silence.

Then dark stains bloom on the wallpaper
around the windows.
Through the clouded pane of the kitchen door
a changed world—
water running down the alley,
hailstones collected in low places,
garden mud beaten to a froth,
poppies tossed like salad greens,
fruited tops of tomato plants
broken, bent
to the wind’s geometry.
Battered onions fill the air with their sighs.

Silence.

And now, tonight,
after the storm,
rising from the heavy grass,
the first fireflies of summer.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: The space and imagery in this poem drive home both the destructive power of a storm, and the sweet, quiet aftermath.

Revenant Etudes by Stephen Bunch

Revenant Etudes

She plays piano in an upper room
in the only unhaunted house in town.
Her calloused fingertips caress
the flats and sharps, the keys
like knife blades arrayed before her,
the dried blood long worn off
by hours of arpeggios, staccatos, and trills.

Sometimes she sings, but usually
she listens, mimics with fingers spread
the sound of the oak’s shadow pressing
the window, or the soft turning
of her husband in sleep.

As she plays she works
to see stars through the ceiling,
to reproduce the faces
of her grandchildren behind
the walls of other houses
in other towns, to hit

the note exactly
as the telephone rings,

and when it doesn’t ring, to pause
precisely and sustain.

With hands crossed, she can make
the sun rise, again and again,
never the same, panta rhei,
with the soft hammering of thumbs,
the interval between then and now.
In the angle of her wrists
the pulse of an ovation,
but she continues to play,
refusing to take a bow.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: This poem highlights that moment all artists crave—zen, flow, being in the zone—while also delicately speaking of the danger of its call.

Telekinetic Dance by Stephen Bunch

Telekinetic Dance
for Vic Contoski

The others retired with spoons
to their rooms
but you chose a fork and stayed
in the dining hall, swaying,
eyes closed,
to music more distant
than you could imagine,
your thumbs caressing the curve of its handle,
feeling its warmth, its stainless
acceptance, you
and the fork attuned,
waltzing and bending
across a ballroom,
bending to the pulse
of music unheard.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: Skillful use of metaphor and enjambment elevates this seemingly simple poem into a heartfelt tribute.

from Second Life by Stephen Bunch

from Second Life

The quantum mechanic’s garage is busy 24/7,
or timelessly (as clocks don’t work and numbers
are words without meaning)—tires perpetually
in rotation, oil incessantly
changing, headlights oscillating between particles
and waves. Dents disappear and reappear,
then disappear again. The paint dries
and never dries.
All car radios are tuned to WSL
playing The Unrecorded Performances
of Suns Ra and Their Arkestras (theoretical string
arrangements by Stephen Hawking).
No one has the time or space to drive.
Meanwhile, next door, at Boltzmann’s Café
everyone waits for yesterday’s special,
tomorrow’s unscrambled eggs.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: The conflation of auto mechanics with advanced physics is unusual, but somehow apt (likely because no car is ever fully repaired; it is only ever in a state of being repaired, once it reaches a certain age).

Captivity by Stephen Bunch

Captivity

Escape is usually an option,
even destined

in the movies, but not
in this destination,

where the plot fails
to unwind, or thickens like

quicksand.
Even the clock’s hands are bound,

each minute contained,
then strangled, the schedule

of departures unchanged.
The cuffs tighten if you struggle.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: The dread in this poem heightens with each line, until the last, where all hope is lost.

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.

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.