In the headlights, fingers of fog weave

over the road, a seamstress just beginning

to patch together the loss of hours and years,


the maybe not and the not there yet.

I drive three hours to my mother’s house,

arrive an hour later than she expects,


still she’s waiting with dinner. She’s

seventy something, I’m forty-six, we’re still

mother and son. Before I’m finished with


the salad, she wants me to accompany her

to two parties this evening: a birthday

and a retirement. Between the roast beef


and mashed potatoes, it’s all guilt. I continue

to say, “No,” mentioning the chainsaw and splitting

wood for the stove, playing basketball with my son


and friends, and, of course, the drive, and in case

exhaustion isn’t enough, I accept the label

of neglectful son, and whatever else she serves up.


Plato, Socrates’ prize student, when he was eighty,

attended a pupil’s wedding party,

and during the celebration retired


to a corner of the villa to sleep in a chair.

He stayed there until the all-night revelers

returned in the morning to wake him,


but he had slept too far into the Elysian fields,

leaving us with the question: Is it marriage

or a party that leads to the death of philosophy?


by Walter Bargen

Walter Bargen has published 21 books of poetry. Recent books include: Days Like This Are Necessary: New & Selected Poems (BkMk Press, 2009), Trouble Behind Glass Doors (BkMk Press, 2013), Perishable Kingdoms (Grito del Lobo Press, 2017), and Too Quick for the Living (Moon City Press, 2017). His awards include: a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the William Rockhill Nelson Award. He was appointed the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009)

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