Walter Bargen The 2River View, 7.2 (Winter 2003)

Stupid Dead

—for Kurt

She says not to bring anything
home for dinner. He doesn't.
He leaves the city to settle

into its odd and new accounts.
At seven, he finds a magazine open,
a cat sitting on the kitchen table,

morning's unwashed dishes by the sink.
He brings home books on Chile and Portugal,
destined for a school report, and the last

three day's newspapers covering the latest
rock star to join what his own mother called
the stupid club, the famous dead.

He’s not speechless, but knows the tone,
what the words imply more and less.
He gathers the details—split peas and rice,

cornmeal and flour, milk and eggs—
sets the oven temperature and timer,
closes the pressure cooker. He leaves

instructions, then slips on his boots
and coat, walks out into a torrential
evening. Rain drips steadily from the bill

of his cap, runs down the back of his neck.
He reaches out to hold a branch aside,
cold rain slides along his wrist and up

his sleeve. The hillside huddles
in shadows. The creek chokes.
Oak trunks, the air itself,

slurred, slanted as the wind picks up.
He returns to the house. Cornbread doughy.
The cat sits on the unpaid bills,

unanswered letters, unread magazines.
Lightning strobes blind the windows. To be
more alive, sometimes you die a little.

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