The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Walter Bargen

Flying Economy


To say nothing is meaningful
is toi say everything is what?
One time or another, leaf humus
and clogged drains equally possess our attention.

To categorically exclude is to categorically include
what is excluded. One day and another, yo-yoing
between sum up and sum up. Yes, you want it.
Yes, you don’t. It can’t be helped.

Maggots crawl around the black plastic bag
draped over the edge of the steel garbage can.
They have nothing to do with this week
or nothing to do until we do.

In chitinous evening light,
the possum flattened on the road.
Rot infects the air. I go to bury it.
I scoop its toothy grimace onto a shovel.

There’s a perfect white shadow
wriggling in the dust,
a thousand squirming larvae─
how possums fly in all directions at once.


Walter Bargen

What's Not New





crumpled piece of paper, to-do list: groceries already bagged on the back car seat,
no one to lick their lips in satisfaction, mouth to salivate a seasoned lust, desire simply
wasting away

flattened cardboard box hit by a speeding semi, the kid inside playing unhurt, or so we’re told and want to believe, always wanting to believe in the possible, the thing-itself ever
beyond us

dirty rag having cleaned one too many dipsticks and now too dirty for anyone to pick up
kicked against a wall where it meets the sidewalk and into the gutter by the sewer grate,
an indescribable disintegration, heads turned in any other less dark direction

crushed ball of tin foil that’s lost all its glitter, a thousand senseless creases and corners,
grease congealed around the long gone sandwich,

broken arrow or the broken pencil, no treaties, no peace left, nothing writ large, only fine
and finer print until a period says it all

yes, tomorrow’s yellowed newspaper, the sun burning its Cyclops’ eye through the
headlines, reporting a Herculean task, the police donned blue plastic gloves to match their
stylish uniforms, didn’t bother to chalk the body, oblivion already too drunk




WALTER BARGEN has published nineteen books of poetry. His most recent books are: Days Like This Are Necessary: New & Selected Poems (2009), Endearing Ruins (2012), Trouble Behind Glass Doors (2013), Quixotic (2014), Gone West (2014), and Three-Corner Catch (2015). He was appointed the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009). His awards include a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship (1991), Quarter After Eight Prose Prize (1996), the Hanks Prize (1996), the Chester H. Jones Foundation prize (1997), the William Rockhill Nelson Award (2005), Short Fiction Award– A cappella Zoo (2011). His poems, essays, and stories have appeared in over 300 magazines.



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