to pray or to bury.

Forty thousand acres of forest combust,
but the mind rests on the mallows’ blooms
in the alley off the plaza, mountains
now obscured, smoke filling
the valleys’ bowls.

Los Alamos evacuated, zero percent

Between shops the young walk upright
but hunched, using opposable thumbs
to tap messages into the thickening air.

Neanderthal, weak, tired, waits
to be culled from the clan.

Man-bends-to-Earth: to be consumed
or defeated.

A Pueblo man, survivor of Bataan, 95 years,
coughs on the other side of a thin wall,
his body a thin question mark.

Kokopelli and the Christ are worn out here.
The humpback and the sin bearer
exhausted by commerce.
The flesh wears away
though the bones may endure
for a season or more.

Neanderthals had no inkling of their end
except as individuals buried with shells
and the pollen of hollyhocks.

It took language six centuries for the extinguishing
of fires to become the extinction of species.

Or to draw strength from or become

A monk’s hands twined in the rosary,
old woman’s fingers bent to the buttons
of an even older accordion,
open hands holding a loaf and a fish,
worn hands grinding corn.

In a day the fires spread
to eighty-thousand acres,
three percent containment.

It can mean fealty or the shaded
difference of humility.

The circuitry sparks—sapiens, ludens
flares, blazes, spreads
but finally is dampened and contained.

Mind on the mallows, man bends
to Earth.

About the author

Stephen Bunch lives and writes in Lawrence, Kansas.  From 1978 to 1988 he edited and published the little magazine Tellus, which included work by Edward…

Read the full bio

Issue 16 · October 2012

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