“Southern Perfection” by Walter Bargen

Walter Bargen


On the map there’s a name
floating on blue.
He travels
to a small island, almost
too small to find.
The plane
plummets through a sea
of clouds. He has just left
his wife
though she says how can
he leave what’s not arrived.
He gives
up arguing and arrives at
his leaving. His first heat-
warped step
is into the glare of the white-
washed decay of colonial
Soon he discovers
the ocean is an ever-opening
vowel that
becomes thick and hot
the longer he lies in
the sand.
It reminds him of
his wife, the sand radiating
an end-
less sigh of dismissal.
Farther down the beach
take off their skins.
The apartment he rents
the nightly neighborhood
gunshots and a tireless steel-drum
Though it’s a stray, the cat
that already lives on
the porch
adopts him. Days later
he finds it dead on
the stoop.
Each evening for
a week there’s a tarantula
nailed through
its abdomen to
the door. He buys a car,
the side
mirror held on
with wire. The first night
parked in
an alley the head-
and taillights are smashed.
It is
a perfection, the breaking
of what’s broken.

from Rattle #16, Winter 2001


Walter Bargen: “Robert Frost said, ‘We shall be known by the delicacy of where we stop short.’ Call it the art of pulling back, that’s what I’m trying to do with the endings to my poems; rather than the ‘big splash’ that drenches the reader, generate the delicate ripple that keeps nudging the reader along after they’ve dried out.” (webpage)

Rattle Logo