Walter Bargen, three poems
Institute of Eyes
I’m waiting among those who are already waiting,
hoping to see something of comfort that they’ve seen before,
or haven’t seen in years, and those few who just hope to see
no matter the consequences, maybe without words that will not
be seen again. No one notices the black and blue eyes of helium
balloons that bounce and stare down from the ceiling
and their synchronized blinking in the drafts from the opening
and closing of the glass doors. Or the eyes with their eyelash-thin fins
swimming in the aquarium of the aqueous humor
near the receptionist’s desk who doesn’t look up in greeting.
May be it can be measured and understood
in the shadows of ever-diminishing letters
projected high on a wall across a room
until the finest lines of letters are a mist
that blows over out-of-focus faces,
eyes unresolved squinting,
prisoners of their own ageing ruin.
Still a woman waits, her toes barely touching
the floor but not her heels. Her back straight, stiff,
her lap-sized purse filled with what must sustain
her waiting for that moment when she is told
her chances. Both her arms embrace the black vinyl
with its artfully looping handles, as if recalling rocking
a blind child to sleep. Her stare unrelenting, the steel
of not seeing anything but the past, but hearing
all that passes, the patience of patient after patient
walking down the hallways of their own privatized visions.
Great Moon Hoax
It’s clear, across the bottom of the TV screen,
the crawler moving slow enough you won’t miss a word,
moving slow enough you’re hooked and can’t let go,
but it’s not enough, the commentators
can’t stop talking, it’s beyond the sensational,
it’s beyond astonishing, it’s clear, it’s definitive,
denial out of the question, Sir John Herschel,
the imminent British astronomer,
with a “hydro-oxygen” mechanism attached
to his telescope has discovered life on the moon,
including 38 new species of trees, horned bears, bipedal beavers,
multiple humanoid species, some with bat wings,
some with faces similar to “orang outangs,” though one
is “less dark in color” and another “scarcely less lovely
than . . . angels.” The New York Sun intending satire
but the truth of satire is reprinted and translated
into newspapers around the world on August 25, 1835,
precursor to Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds,
October 30th, 1938, nationwide panic.
Reporting nearly 200 years later, the fake news
is no longer fake news, since it is the news
reporting on fake news and 50 shades of unreality.
Arm and a Leg
. . . because I sometimes feel it may not continue to exist much longer....
He isn’t certain whether cosines
and square roots are needed,
as the doctor sums the cost of an arm
and a leg. Any way, he manipulates
the figures with a bit of Dr. Frankenstein,
but the calculator won’t perform
the grisly calculations.
New batteries don’t extend its reach.
He goes digging in a closet, pushing aside shoes
that haven’t lodged a foot or complaint of blisters
in years. The dust monumental,
guarded by cherubs. The towering
cobwebs the clothes of ghosts.
He finds the box where his army rests,
assembled and generaled in his tricycle years.
When he was twelve he resigned
his command of forces, who were always on the attack,
to become a pacifist. Little rubber figures,
the color of pond scum, forever in the position
of throwing a grenade that surely has exploded
by now, or lying prone and aiming, their rifles
surely out of ammunition, or crouched and running
and if not blown to smithereens by firecrackers,
then surely severe back pains ensued.
Sure enough at the bottom of this boxed army,
rolling aimlessly around orphaned arms, legs,
hands, and even a couple of heads, the loss making
no difference to the aim and bayonet thrust
of their statuesque devotion.