The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Walter Bargen

Feasting on Stardom


We are responsible for Carrottes rapeé a l’orange,
something I can’t pronounce even before a bottle
of wine sits empty on the table, labeled with another
name that defies my numbed tongue. The recipe

is simple: crushed garlic clove, tablespoon of grape
seed oil (substitute peanut oil.), carrots
cut into julienne strips, something beyond our cheap
food processor. Diced suffices, sprinkled

with chopped fresh parsley, salt and peppered
to taste. A startling orange accented with green
sits in a glass bowl in the backseat.
We drive past leafless trees and brown fields

to Christmas dinner with friends who are
preparing to leave for London. The other
courses are also unpronounceable.
Each new dish passed and emptied

is greeted with astonishment.
Wedged between table and wall,
we argue playfully beyond reason,
feigning inchoate opinions: the best movie

of the year, decade, lifetime, century,
from Zinetrope to Farewell My
to Cries and Whispers.
With wine Bergman turns

to Thighs and Whispers. No, someone
half-shouts, it's Thighs and Whiskers
starring Gabby Hayes and Marilyn Monroe,
the passing of an age.

The dog wanders under the long table,
begging handouts, searching for fallen scraps,
bumping and rubbing up against legs, sending
eyes searching through our own “B” movies.


Walter Bargen



Amid the mounting Christmas catalog chaos,
correctly addressed, but with slight variations that generate
proliferating copies: with and without a middle initial,

a prefix or not, last name first, capitalized or not, still offering
all these extravagant sales, free shipping, free gifts,
chance to win a free cruise, last chance at these prices,

buy one get one free. It’s the business envelopes
with my correct address that are most puzzling. There are three,
each addressed to a different person: Wendy Viddock,
Clairnel Nervek, and Chastity Cummins. All women.

or the transvestite, transgender, transworld side
of my personality that I don’t know enough about yet.
A Sybil perhaps? Is this mailbox a secret drop but for what?

When I enter my house will I meet Wendy in the attic
where she has lived for years keeping the bats company
and watching the sky dissolve? Clairnel nestled behind

the water heater’s warm horizon and never coming out?
Chastity squeezed under the stairs staring up at who ascends
and who doesn’t? At least the last, would explain the strange lights

that plague my dreams, that too often gallop into nightmares.
She’s curled up reading a book or maybe I’m not who I’m not
and not who I am and not not who everyone expects.




WALTER BARGEN has published nineteen 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).  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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