The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Walter Bargen

Final Observations at the Entrance to the Nursing Home


The drone of a distant lawnmower on a mission to keep the grass

short and orderly. Back and forth, an army on parade,

booted and in lock-step, turning right to salute the empty

reviewing grandstand before falling below the blade.


Off-on, the thermostat set, the air conditioner compressor,

sitting on a concrete pad behind juniper bushes, insists

that it knows better and annoys everyone listening.


A mourning dove near the grain elevators coos,

who, who, so nothing is resolved though

everything is inevitable.


By the landscaped pool and water fall, a stampede of water lilies

have left their round green footprints across the surface

where yellow- and pink-petaled flowers not trampled,

glow, and below koi hover in that other world.


The figure of a straw-hatted plastic boy sits beside the pool,

the pants of his overalls rolled up to his knees, as if ready

to wade in, holding a fishing pole whose hookless line

never touches the water.


Three days ago she lost the use of her hands. Three days ago

she stopped eating. Three days ago sleep became

her last refuge. The water breaks over rocks,

folding and unfolding before rejoining the pool.




WALTER BARGEN has published twenty-one 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), Perishable Kingdoms (2017), and Too Quick for the Living (2017)..  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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