Empire of Indigo

by Walter Bargen

Walter Bargen

Already mascaraed rivers of grief.
Already a fidgeting silence blackens the hall.

Tongueless howls, savage claims.
I was asked, but why?

It wasn’t like I wildly waved a gun on the street,
or donated money to an organization

on a watch list, or cleaned out the bathroom which I do
occasionally, though not often enough to keep

the shadows out of the tile joints,
or slit the scaled belly and pull out the viscera

from a fish caught by a kid
who doesn’t understand soft viscera,

the relentless falling dominos. It wasn’t like
that at all but I don’t know what to call it.

I started with the word “officiate,”
and that’s not even close.

We know the umpire’s blind when we’re losing
and we always are. It doesn’t matter, strikes, balls,

stealing home, the ball knocked out of the catcher’s
well-worn mitt after the runner’s body-block,

no officiating here as the ball rolls toward the dugout.
Maybe I settled into “officiate”

when there was no turning back for third base,
home ahead, and for this woman who sat up in bed

at 4 a.m., saying she couldn’t sleep, who was so happy,
if not giddy at the previous evening’s dinner party,

this hour before mocking bird and cardinal announce themselves
in the first skeins of light, in the studio holding a gallon of indigo

she dyed her body, pouring the bucket over her head,
her nipples a surging font of darkness,

pubic hair dripping shadows, the hips’
outriggers sailing quickly under a dark sea,

thighs trellised with streaks
feet following the irrevocable flow

in an already smothering summer heat.
With stepladder and rope she evaded the hours,

no longer hiding yet hidden, shielded, protected
in indigo. Someone I didn’t know,

only our common recognizable namelessness,
but not today, not that we know

what we never thought,
yet already after the words, the songs, the poems,

already the fiddle’s case snapped closed, already
the officiating finished, the evening sky tightening into indigo.

Last updated November 07, 2022