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?
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).www.walterbargen.com