The 2River View

Walter Bargen


After a week of a fog, it's served for dinner. The cook leans out the window and ladles it into three pots. Cooked down and caramelized, it can obscure the most intense stare, exacerbate cataracts, blind hatred. Fog-heaped steaming platters, and no one knows who's sitting across the table much less whose elbow bumped the fork, catapulting it into the air. All the guests sit mutely, listening for the metallic clatter of a landing but nothing echoes back from oblivion: no squealing like a stuck pig, no howling chains of a rattling coon dog, no caterwauling cats, no speeding tires chewing up gravel, no saw scream of trees being subdivided, no vocalizing living or muttering machinations. Now someone will have to make do with a dessert fork.

Knives dance across the plates challenging the porcelain. There's never been a lighter cuisine except for saints who claim to live on light. That's the next step. No need to buy X-ray glasses advertised in the back of Marvel comics where the hair on the head of the wearer is drawn straight up as a well-endowed woman walks past offering grants and foundation support. Those superhero powers so out of control. Now the diners will be transformed from an accumulation of micro-droplets to photons. Now everyone can see through, stepping out of fog into the light. The road no longer needed, walking on air and water the rage as fog blows here and there. The long or short of it, the host wishes the diners well, hoping they find home one way or another, and embraces each with a farewell Heimlich.

Sigmund Road

. . . you think that you are suspended on air, but then it's rougher than the ungraded gravel that once found your house in the woods and always led away. Or it's a deeper road, the road in the road that holds every destination that's ever been dreamed but now you're stumbling along covered in an asphalt nightmare. Or it's the road under the road, embryonic, not yet fully developed, certainly not ready for the likes of you, and if you drive on it too long all hell breaks loose. And maybe it's all three at once, as you begin to separate, turn into triplets, and watch yourself headed in three different directions, and claiming total control.

The steering wheel wants to set its own course, turning right, turning left, trying to center on three roads or no road at all as you begin to cry for the median. You were sure that you had a destination, and now you're not even sure that you were on a road that led somewhere, but you're committed, no turning back, and hell bent to get there. You know slowing down is a mistake, you'll end up dead in your tracks. There's no starting up again, tires uselessly spinning for years, a crazed potter's wheel. The vessel thrown looks like an unwashed car with gray change in the ashtray, the glove compartment's owner's manual and emergency flares about to ignite into panic. All three directions, all three lives, about to collide, and then it's too late, the car's in mud up to its axles. It's what Midwest farmers call, "When the bottom falls out of the road," and it happens after the grounds frozen for a month and the freeze goes deep, then it rains and doesn't stop for weeks.

Walter Bargen has published thirteen books of poetry of poetry. His lastest is Days Like This Are Necessary: New & Selected Poems. He is the winner of the Chester H. Jones Foundation prize (1997), a NEA Fellowship (1991) and the William Rockhill Nelson Award. From 2008-2009, he served as the first poet laureate of Missouri. contact