I drive my daughter to a 6 a.m. basketball practice, muttering curses at the coach. Mid-winter the sun isn’t even suggesting itself yet. My expectations, my habits, a life of routine, place it somewhere on the southern horizon, but the heavy breath of darkness continues to exhale across fields like an overdose that won’t let me come back. Venus and stars of the Milky Way pour across the glittering dome. I’m tied to the asphalt thread of a road as it sews through an immense undisturbed space.
Not until I’ve dropped my daughter off behind the high school gymnasium, and she has dropped her high tops twice in her grogginess as she balanced books, and after closing the car door, do I begin to see the machinery of the cosmos turning and feel alone as I, we, they.
Even in caring for each other, within all the activities that distract, and in the schedules and appointment books kept to contain and declare some importance to myself and others, all are diminished on these plains that spread so far beyond my grasp, whose borders will always remain rumors, and the horizon an unreachable definition, and in moments of failing hope, a final desire to run over the edge.
Wisps of first light brush the earth’s rough rim, spread across the underbelly of a now pale sky, erasing the stars that were so permanent a moment ago. Small huddles of distant trees shake loose their black foliage to reveal stark outlines of branches, plotting with the lowing cattle as they drift back into their awkward bodies, their calls echoing across miles of open range.
I stop on a ridge. The far hills are milky blue. I feel a slight tremor race through me, feel the Great Plains turning toward an even more vast plane of light. I’m falling toward the sun. In my ashes, I am lighter.
Copyright © 2022 Walter Bargen
All Rights Reserved
Walter Bargen has published 25 books of poetry including: My Other Mother’s Red Mercedes (Lamar University Press, 2018), Until Next Time (Singing Bone Press, 2019), Pole Dancing in the Night Club of God (Red Mountain Press, 2020), and You Wounded Miracle (Liliom Verlag, 2021). He was appointed the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009).
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