This spring afternoon two shovels booted into the soft ground near the house,
their handles vertical,
exclamations at the end of a sentence no one wants to hear. Too soon digging a hole,
waiting for a wife
to declare the depth adequate, the bladed sides steep enough, smooth enough, wide enough
for the bundled root wad.
She holds the thumb-thick trunk vertical, soil scooped and dragged
are spread in two layers, starting at the convex bottom. She chants, “This is what he wanted.
This is what he wanted.”
No one needs convincing─none of us want this and yet we do. In this nuclear-
hydrogen-fissioned, already eight-minute old stale sunlight, there’s not a red wood growing
within two thousand miles
of these plains. Our upturned heads see 300 feet in a thousand years.
What photons aren’t banged,
blocked, absorbed, diverted by our distracted attention, pass on and on.
[author's note: the poem is dedicated to Martin Stech (1947 - 2005). It is describing the burying of his ashes.]
Walter Bargen has published sixteen books of poetry. His two most
recent books are Endearing Ruins/Liebenswerte Ruinen, Liliom-Verlag
(Germany), 2012, and Trouble Behind Glass Doors, BkMk Press-UMKC, 2013.
In 1991 he was awarded a National Endowment of the Arts writing
fellowship in poetry. In 1996, he won the Quarter After Eight prose
prize, and the Chester H. Jones Foundation prize in 1997. His book, The
Feast (2004), won the William Rockhill Nelson Award in 2005. He was
appointed the first Poet Laureate of Missouri, 2008-2009.
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