by Walter Bargen

Walter Bargen

Laughing lions must come.

The moon's thin sickle harvests vast darkness to the west.
Through the iron-bare lattice of branches, he sees lights
from the house on the next ridge. Through the sway
of trees, the windows flutter, take flight, and return to roost
in different walls. Near his feet a few late crickets resurrect themselves.

In a late year, keeping erratic time, old springs and gears of an older watch.
In the abyss between him and the far house earth is rent,
the bottom fallen out, nothing to convince him that during
the day this is simply a valley cut by a seasonal creek.
The winded stampede of leaves, races with cloven hooves.

The dog chained on the ridge begins a low moan
that grows out of the wet ground until every bone
in its body vibrates and threatens to shake free
its sagging redbone skin. Oak trunks begin to shake.
Arthritic branches claw the forest floor,

crawl crabwise in every direction. Along the abandoned
wheel-rutted tractor path stagnant water begins to spill over
muddy lips. Another dog chained to another corner
of night answers. Once he couldn't wake,
when the animal inside him cowered and moaned helplessly,

paralyzed in his own deep-throated terror.
When he did wake all he remembered were lights
flashing underneath the staircase.
Tonight, for these dogs, it is deer and coyotes.
For him, a herd of antlered men
are raiding the bottom of nothing and mean it.

Last updated November 07, 2022