Scarred red dune buggy bounces down the wash.
Wide ribbon of corrugated tracks
Tied to the extinction of a fading engine.
Two cherry-helmeted passengers
So lonely here they scream to be heard.
Tall river of a quarter horse ripples past.
Hooves splash sand.
Brown cowboy-hatted rider shouts
At the kids with BB guns not to shoot
Until she’s past. The boys turn away
Tired of firing at flocks of cans.
Hunched over in yesterday,
Husband and wife stroll along
With another evening to resolve.
Their daughter and three dogs
Race between boulder-rubbled banks.
He kicks an upright tire half-submerged
In the dry bedฤone of a school
Of black-streaked diving desert dolphins.
It’s the start of a long list deposited
For the dry season: broken bricks,
Dented barrels, warped boards,
Ant-infested mattresses, rolls
Of bent chicken wire, a rusted out car,
All waiting to head south
On this avenue of deserted pleasures.
---for Peter Noce
Swallowing barbed wire is the way
cedar trunks cross fences.
He does the same.
Today trees gallop between
the pasture’s creosoted posts.
He did the same in bed his last night.
Cottonwoods ride wind’s panicked horse
into the next county.
One foot in a windy stirrup,
the other rooted in earth
he rides into the next country,
before any of us know it.
Last year’s leaves cling
to scrub oaks beside the house.
A dry rattling dance.
He accepts the invitation
and the warning about the music:
It’s the wind that kicks up its heels.
Pinyon and juniper sashay
over brown fields,
scared this way and that
by this and that, cowering in the lee
of every rock and fencepost. It’s not
the whipped winter grass, but his unexpected
return. The house shutters after
another deep breath moans,
rolls over, show its belly.
A hundred books stacked on shelves
beside the closed window,
one page flutters, the one he’s still reading.
Walter Bargen has published eighteen books of poetry. His most recent books are: Days Like This Are Necessary: New & Selected Poems (2009), Endearing Ruins (2012), Trouble Behind Glass Doors (2013),Quixotic (2014), and Gone West (2014). He was appointed the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009). He was awarded a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship (1991), the Hanks Prize (1996), The William Rockhill Nelson Award (2005), and more. His poems, essays, and stories have appeared in over 100 magazines.