Three Poems by A. C. Purcell

BOMB 31 Spring 1990
031 Spring 1990

Because of the Light

The mammal is mostly water. Blood/a mineral compound
Grown on a frame of calcium moved by electrical impulse
strapped together with muscle
Impulse conveying information
an eye a jelly reflecting/conveying information
like a deer’s eye/hawks not the same
pattern as shadow
where grass is not moving in the wind/what there
keeps it upright? Still spot in the line of motion
shadow of the tree thicker than the leaves should throw/something
lies along the branch (not to reason/to perceive)
perception as it should move through us/something there
Phototropic I/sensors turn to sunlight
Step out of the darkened cabin into a
light filtered by popple, willow toward the marsh
dark green cattails crests of phragmites toss
Man is a creature of grasslands/shores
the eye transferring information/bright and shadowed/color
movement/ease or strangeness is this landscape safe/correct
this shadow correct?

Split the long leathery leaf to see
the white pithy layer of cells just visible
tiny enclosures
cutting the rainsoaked acorn with father’s penknife
look for the tree inside
In the pattern language an old lady taught/stitches
from underneath stretched muslin
made a violet a smooth thready leaf a ribbon
Eye of a redwing
is perfectly round/honey color

eight years old, sitting on the sour earth under the overgrown
lilacs, a dome of mauve honeycomb flowers and dark heartshaped
leaves above. The trunk down here is gray and punky, the ground
damp and bare. A place to hide things, not pleasant but secret.
Wound onto the lowest branch is red embroidery thread strung
through a tiny white scallop shell that has been pierced by an
oyster drill, farther along is a knob of gleaming black tar from
the road, very fresh and strong-smelling. In a cup-shaped knot on
the branch above her rests precariously the works of a wristwatch
without case or crystal. Today she has brought the Queen of
Spades borrowed from her parents’ deck of cards, the bold profile
and double image interest her. In a perfectly flat voice she
chants a schoolyard song: “There’s a lady on the mountain/Who
she is I do not know/All she wants is gold and silver/And her
arms are white as snow.” Done, she rolls out from under the
scratchy branches into the sun.


The Herbalist

the herbalist wears Chinese shoes
walks gently on the grasses
is cruel to women
fearing them

with the water of rock springs
small flowers, stinking roots
heals where he dreads
listening to the pulses
studying the channels
cursing them softly
las plantas mágicas—where everything is potent
every thing is frightening

he said: walk soft on grasses, know
the power—like gold wires
in every stem—aligning with the sun
whose heat calls forth the drone you thought
was sung by bees

wear Chinese shoes

in immanence is power: each springing strand of grass
the pollens, heavy glistening seed
listen to the drones

fear women
wear Chinese shoes


Chinese Pornography

it blows up suddenly
encounter between cold air and warm
now a muggy warmth suffuses
now a chill breeze
now a chill breeze and the cloud
begins to swell
begins to swell and darken
rearing up and growing thicker
heavier, richer in substance
drums begin, the lighter ones first
then the big one that follows the heartbeat
the first flair goes off
air hisses through the pines
thick cords of lightning flashing down
the pines begin to moan
the big drum like a fast heartbeat
the big drum like a fast heartbeat
in the perfect stillness
when the cloud breaks

The poetess, A. C. Purcell, lives in the Catskills of Upstate New York.

Three Poems by Faraj Bayraqdar
Joseph Bartscherer by James Welling
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In memory of Joseph Bartscherer (1954–2020), BOMB is reposting this interview from 2008.

Two Poems by Sarah Sala
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A public cafeteria, the ghost of my heart gorges herself on spent ammunition // The Orlando medical examiner processed each of the 49 Pulse victims apart from the gunman. / Even amid gravitational collapse, surviving atoms couldn’t reanimate with him.

To Change the Shape of the Brain in the Heart: A Conversation by John James & Rob Schlegel
Schlegel And James Covers

The poets on their latest collections, the texture of language, and work that pulls the rug from under us.

Originally published in

BOMB 31, Spring 1990

Featuring interviews with Jean-Paul Gaultier, Nick Cave, Joyce Carol Oates, Anton Furst, Tony Spiridakis, Larry Sultan, Liza Béar, Sally Beers, John Steppling, Lisa Hoke, Véra Belmont, Leonard Shapiro, and Christopher Brown.

Read the issue
031 Spring 1990