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The human sat up in bed, rubbed his eyes. The window and door were wrong. The mountains outside, wrong. It all seemed out of sync, as if the gods that rearrange the world at night had put it back wrong. He shut his eyes, whispered to himself, “C’mon, li’l cutiepie.” Felt nothing. His heart an arctic moon in infinite space.

He stepped out for a walk, passing the farm with the hairy black goats, whose collective bleating make a woozy circus music. Whose throats will be cut at the end of the month. The farmer, whose soil is desiccated, whose son’s ribs stick out, waved. He waved back, rubbed his eyes, peered up at the mountains.

Was there nothing good on earth? He stopped under a pine tree struck by lightning, needles at his feet. That’s how he felt! He whispered, softly, to himself, “Little cutiepie, little sailorboy, little pulsebeat,” and smiled despite himself. “You,” he whispered, slowing to hear it, “are the humble boatman who helps travelers over stormy waters.” He snorted, shook his head like a bride. How absurd: he was neither humble nor a boatman. But he felt better. Nothing had changed, he knew. Still the neighbor’s dog had lesions around its eyes resembling holes in the ice. Still the mountains, overmined for shale, were collapsing. Nevertheless, some hidden chamber within him had swung open. Now he felt the plenty of it.

There, before him, his own wife in the doorway of their home. A butterfly cut a jagged line in the air around her. And the green parrots above, crossing the valley like a whirling tree.

 

John Wall Barger

John Wall Barger

John Wall Barger’s fifth book of poems, Resurrection Fail (Spuyten Duyvil, 2021), was a finalist for the Raymond Souster award. He is a contract editor for Frontenac House, and teaches in the BFA Program for Creative Writing at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
John Wall Barger

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Author: John Wall Barger

John Wall Barger’s fifth book of poems, Resurrection Fail (Spuyten Duyvil, 2021), was a finalist for the Raymond Souster award. He is a contract editor for Frontenac House, and teaches in the BFA Program for Creative Writing at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.