• Walter Bargen

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....

--Thomas Merton

1

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.