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Whatever inspired that first live cell
to pull a little line down the center
and so become, as two, both and neither,
it must have known what a child knows
when he looks up at a house on fire,
until, ascending, the night is day again.
When I was his age, I put my ear
against the train tracks to hear the future.
It sounded like the metal it was made of.
Be fruitful and multiply, said one future.
The heavy engine is coming, said another.
Seeing off in the distance cut two ways.
I learned to survive in light of it.
I learned to long to survive myself.
Ear to the steel, I felt the cold expire.
I learned the moan of the locomotive
carries better after dark. I lay awake
each night, waiting, listening. And then I fell.
I do not know when I first began
to love, though I suspect long before
I knew a thing about it. My first words
rushed to fill the absence of the mother
who left the room. To think I grew out
of that absence, out of the body inside it.
The night my house burned down, I looked up
amazed how bright a missing house can be,
how steepled in light. Streets filled with neighbors,
strangers, my mother’s eyes with tears of awe.
Whatever inspired that first live cell,
it was one part dread, another desire.
It would make, as two, a heaven of one.
More light, more light, said the future. Or this:
in the beginning there were two boys.
There was skin. One side of which was fire.
One boy stepped from the flames of the other,
paused scared, looked back. Let us call him
knowledge, the boy who left his body to burn.
Let us write in smoke his solitary name.
Bruce Bond is the author of fourteen books, including five forthcoming: Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand (University of Michigan Press), For the Lost Cathedral (Louisiana State University Press), Black Anthem (Tampa Review Prize, University of Tampa Press), Sacrum(Four Way Books), and The Other Sky (Etruscan).