Three Formal Poems

by Sam Buntz (September 2020)

Autumn Sea, Max Pechstein, 1933




Broken Shells


Look at the shells that grate on the shore—

Beauty fresh, broken down, and all worn through.

Millions of lives cast off and millions more

Wait for their end in the murmuring blue.

The world’s untroubled by beauty consigned to waste,

Lost forms sunk low that no eye or ear can wake:

Sight stripped of color and tongue without taste,

A lame hand that can neither give nor take.

Beauty runs like a fugitive down here,

Hiding from light, evading the microscope.

Its persistence is obscure, its end all too clear,

If not for this bright and definite hope:

The world’s beauty, the soul, sunk in time and space

Will be fished out at last by the line of Grace.



Ghazal: In Light


Prune the garden with your shears of discernment

While the contents of your heart remain in light.


See the struggles and contests of the outer life—

Burning drops race down a windowpane in light.


Look at us, errant offspring of the billionaire

Who once let His gold coins rain in light.


The mole rat tunnels upward all day long,

But weak underground eyes feel pain in light.


On the solstice, dawn devours the dusk

And the Lion of Judah shakes his mane in light.


God’s reflections return His words in garbled speech—

Wet cobblestones glitter along the lane in light.


The heart’s dust glimmers with a sudden breeze—

Has it gone mad or ultra-sane in light?


Knowing God how a vine blindly knows its wall

My leaves stretch open to rein in light.


To the spectacle of shadows that gather round

Samuel marvels at the poses you feign in light.



The Reservoir of Her Mind


The cool, quiet reservoir of her mind

Is always fresh, its springs always beginning.

Her understanding ripples before and behind

From a single point of focus, widening.

She reminds me, in how she gives and receives,

Of still lake water yielding up the light

Along with the brilliance of autumn leaves

Doubling their richness in a second sight.

And now the wind brushes back the surface

As if a little worry were to intrude

But it fades into her silent witness

Peacefully observing her own mood

With a living stillness, by no means numb, 

Able to bear whatever storms may come.


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Sam Buntz
a legal writer and part-time freelancer based in Chicago.He’s been published in The Washington Monthly, along with articles in Fare Forward and Pop Matters, The Stonefence Review, and in the now-defunct The Fossil Record.


Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast


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