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Two poems by Walter Bargen article








What if there is no stoplight, no where to where,

no turn to make?                           

Missed in a blink of an eye. Adobe rearview dust.                                                                                             

Universe expanding and unrelenting.

A name written on every boarded up house.                                                                        

Forward, foreword, foreclosed. 

Sidewalk and alley alike. No difference walking up and down,

Back and forth. Fifteen minutes
Of fame emblazoned on bathroom stalls.  Offers grandiose.

Phone numbers algorithms.                                                                                             

Desire demands recall. Stars beyond stars.

That’s all anyone came for,                                                               
To pass through, not to know an end. Not sure how
To get back, only more boned exposure.
Kicked up dust─such theatrics─all these overweight
Stick-figure saguaros
Caught in centuries-long bank-holdup poses. Chased by
Unrelenting posses of light.

So laughable: All they walk away with is a pocketful of stones.

Leaving the arroyo
Sure that they’ve thrown these stones before,
Hot as a rain of asteroids.
It’s what hits the rabbit behind a floppy ear   
that kills.

The man from the other side of the duplex universe says all he         

wanted was to caress pulsing fur.

There’s an arc to nonsense, sorrow always in the missing.

It’s the straight line off the map that kills us.






A roadside biblical plague:

fifteen-feet long steel grasshopper painted yellow, a relative

of Jiminy Cricket without his toe-tapping fiddle, and his companion,

close in length,

a sheet-metal-scaled crocodile with a grin quick to disarm

any victim who might stop

to take a photograph of these two sitting beside repaired tractors,

trailers, balers, wide-wheeled herbicide sprayers.


Outside town on the way to the next town,

in the middle of a field surrounded by scrub oaks, upright

and wedding white,

though the seams are showing from years of reeling sunshine,

a drive-in theater screen. A hundred feet away

the projection booth, concession stand, windows broken out

and the growing crowd,

basketball tall sunflowers, their yellow-petaled, seed-heavy faces

turned toward the weathering screen,

straining to read the too-fast scrolling credits

of the sun.


In the river bottoms, the fields are tabletop flat

with an imperceptible tilt toward the gulf. A billboard warns

of the world’s largest pecan.

Two miles ahead, gawkers slow down to observe or do battle.

Along one edge of a parking lot,

a bulbous-mottled concrete monster, fossilized blimp,

that each year sinks deeper into the pine-pitted sandy loam,

as pounds, pecks,

bushels are hoisted into trunks and trucks.


The barn, board and batten darkened

to the color of days-old coffee, stands as sentinel and guide

to the mile-long furrows

that end inches from its drooping vine-strangled walls. 

It calls together the fall congregations of corn and soybeans,

it’s corrugated tin roof intact, rusted deep as dried blood

after another mid-week bar fight.

Lettering visible from any crop-dusting plane

or from a mile up the road, its fifty-year old advertisement

for Coca–Cola drinks in

the silver-scripted cocaine-flashes of sun light.


Gray scar of road,

and beyond the ditch conversations arc between telephone poles

where wind’s moan unravels is undiminished at the horizon

with everything still left to say.

No matter how many times it’s repeated, pressed, impressed,

repetition is the only truth. 

Heaven remains out there, but that’s all that’s ever saved. 


                                                ─ for Bill Wells




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). His poems, essays, and stories have appeared in over 100 magazines.



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