Two poems by Walter Bargen

The Answering Ice

For Michael Castro (1945-2018)


he answers the phone. He hears blackbirds

meandering their sentences across the sky.

He hears leaves scratching their syllables

across the porch. He can hear what he doesn't

understand and know it is his like the dust

settling on his books. He can tell by

the tone of his voice that he's talking

to his grandmother that is not his grandmother.

He will have little to say and too much.

He will simply go along with whatever is said

to him. He will be evasive, half-hearted,

He knows he must give it all up.

He feels the weight of shadows breaking

the oak's branches. He hears wars unresolving

themselves. He hears the board sliding

from the roof, hitting him in the back of the head

driving his face into the raw dirt. Premonition

or practice? He bursts our laughing.

He can hear a child silently digging to China.

He laughs again when he is locked in the attic.

Another time he falls through the ceiling

His wings not having time to open.

He will have little

to say. He will simply go along. He will

listen half-heartedly. He hears the coming

snow pressing deeply down on itself and on him.

Finally, he asks