It wasn’t so long ago
Then it was longer than we thought.
Really it was a step or two beyond thinking.
The edge is out there somewhere.
The photograph I’m holding proves it.
Here’s another friend who has fallen into a frame
And nowhere else.
In the closet, there’s a shoebox holding a wallet-sized
Grand Canyon and the largest ball of string in Kansas.
Immutability was not a dream than it was.
Now we have nothing and don’t care either.
Ontologically rich, metaphysically poor,
The non-substance of any living.
Some people die with their boots on, not making it
out of the trenches or even a few feet farther.
Our boots are only muddy.
Anyone can track us down.
We reinvent desertion and call it flight
only to be arrested and fall too easily from the sky.
Be careful which way you point that gun.
We want to see your license for extinction.
Twigs snap, snap again.
Now we’re running fast.
The arrhythmia of rumors causes us to stop
And catch a breath.
The canary long ago dead in the deep tunnels
Of our visions. No answer was ever forthcoming.
When the stage was finally reached
No one arrived to play the part.
The horizon pulled back. Curtains in flames.
Cowboys gasp in dust behind cattle
Headed for Abilene.
The Flint Hills napped into gravel.
Who will be next to wake?
— Walter Bargen
Walter Bargen has published thirteen books of poetry and two chapbooks. The latest are: The Feast, BkMk Press-UMKC, 2004, winner of the 2005 William Rockhill Nelson Award; Remedies for Vertigo (2006) from WordTech Communications; West of West from Timberline and Theban Traffic (2008) WordTech Communications. In 2009, BkMk Press-UMKC published Days Like This Are Necessary: New & Selected Poems. He was appointed to be the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009). He’s one of the poets reading at the Lawrence Arts Center today and participating in the conference as part of Poet Laureati: A Convergence of Poets Laureate.