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By Simmons B. Buntin

Salmon Poetry, 2010

Trunks glow blue among yellow flowers:
whole constellations of them
in the dark branches of the night.

Set largely in the rugged but resplendent borderlands of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico — and ranging as far afield as the Israeli desert, the Sweden of his mother’s youth, the Midway Atoll, and Hiroshima, Japan, on the 40th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb, Simmons B. Buntin’s second collection of poems, Bloom, gathers unexpected insight from our built and natural landscapes to blossom into poems of striking beauty and stunning realization. Shine, the book’s first section, ranges from the violet light of the last night in Eden to a daughter’s coming of age and desire. Flare, the second section, weaves from roadside wildflowers to an evening in SoHo to a mother’s memory of Nazi bombers overhead before her own storied migrations to America. And Inflorescence, the final section, braids the experience of a daughter recovering from emergency surgery following a severe accident, with the slow and mesmerizing bloom, or inflorescence, of the yard’s magnificent agave. In reading the poems of this finely crafted and lyrical book, you’ll find that like the daughter releasing ladybugs in the poem “Shower” the open room of your heart, too, will be filled with pure red joy.

Sample Poems

Whether You are Listening or You are Reading

there is a poem for you and it may
be like this poem for my wife

who listens to a podcast and sometimes
laughs so hard her earbuds drop

and she looks at me and smiles, shares
the story of the actress and her monologue

or the man who unwittingly confesses
his most embarrassing moment on the radio

before she tucks the tiny white speakers
back into her ears. On the other side

of the table I slip into a book of poems,
sometimes nodding or clicking my tongue

in agreement before looking away
to the shelves across the room, the white

antler discovered in a saffron field,
or the photographs of my daughters

who are asleep now in their rooms,
Juliet curled beneath a quilt of flowers,

Ann-Elise bent across her black blanket,
foot draped over the bedframe, the house quiet

except for those burbling springs of laughter
and the murmur of turning pages

as I think of you again, listening or reading,
the poem paused by the person you love.


Pouring the black light into every crevice,
we follow the thick vertebrae of the wall

until the moon and bats rise –
until the purple radiance fills the night. There

and there, all at once, the poisonous scorpions shine,
their exoskeletons like intricate green

imps stealing moths at twilight.
We keep their gruesome glow in our minds

and on our tongues as we talk
through the empty hours of the drive home:

the dark mountain pass, the pressing lights
of the city, the dim lane leading

to our house and then brake hard
at the tangled braid of red and yellow and

black. Eyes open and shining, jaw heavy
with venom, the coral snake’s body

is bent upon itself, rolled tight from the quick black
wheels of the day. Gathering ourselves

now into the car, into the silent rooms
of our house, there is a violet

light pouring over everything and nothing,
like that last terrible night in Eden

when every sharp animal rushed to hide
in all the exposed crevices of the world.


“Simmons B. Buntin’s second collection of poems masterfully weaves the landscape and plant life of the American Southwest into a personal language.”
— Mid-American Review

“This is environmental verse that avoids every cliché of the genre, choosing instead to carve a path that lies somewhere between the easy narrative grace of Billy Collins and the rich, organic imagery of Mary Oliver. Bloom brings into sharp relief the awakening of a man, husband, and father as he realizes that he and his loved ones are but sweet, fleeting dreams. This realization makes his wife and daughters, and the plants and animals around him, even more precious.”
— Tucson Weekly

“In reading Bloom I began to understand how one can gracefully wrap themes together on the scale of a collection, keeping the recurring images evocative rather than repetitious. Buntin writes of mothers who are also grandmothers, sons who are fathers, and daughters who are like the blooms of the Sonoran desert that surrounds him. He writes of the flora and fauna of the desert without losing the layers of meaning tangled within his writing, which like his life is always nature within the context of family, family within the context of nature.”
— CutThroat: A Journal of the Arts