An Experiment

These bouts of inspiration are always
I might as well call them my January Friend.
They move me to write
the way that February holidays
move me to mark the halls
with boughs of roses.

Some poems hit hard, percussive,
like marches in the summer heat,
made complete with chili dogs
and a Prilosec.

Some poems flow easily onto the page
and may resemble the dances of june bugs
just before
ZAP! –

Right now, I’m inspired by the great texts
that tower around me at the local bookstore.
There’s “No One Belongs Here More Than You”
by Miranda July
and a religious history anthology about Augustus Caesar.

Sometimes I forget to appreciate the power
of words bound between hard covers,
taking a store such as this and a journal to write in
for granted.

Except timber, like money,
does not grow on trees.

No, it gives all of itself
and sheds love, passed from tree-huggers,
to die for the author’s art.

When October brings its
candy apple scent to cool air,
remember the sacrifice of our golden-leaf friends,
slain like fire-breathers in children’s story books.
But it doesn’t take a dragon’s breath,
only a novice ember,
to erase the legacies of our history
and condemn us to lonely cold Decembers
with an empty hearth
and nothing to read.

Written for Sunday Scribblings (#216)


In a Name

With a feeling of sorrow, I consider the poor turtle, out of breath on my rug.

Every morning as I trip, groggily, out of bed,
I nearly step on my girlfriend’s pet, Berdie
who scampers
(as quick as a turtle can)
for cover from my monstrous, stretching feet.

Oftentimes, people misunderstand her name,
“Oh, how adorrrrrable, a turtle named after a bird…”
“Berdie” is short for Roberta…

But it’s mornings such as this that I can begin to see the irony in such a name.

Perhaps there is something held within the first words of our introductions,
“Hi, I’m James,”
much more powerful than cute pets
and first impressions.

My lover’s pet is named Berdie,
because she longs for wings
to soar from certain death upon my bedside rug.
If she were a mimicking bird, she would squawk,
for every time I’ve nearly crushed her in the dark.

The whale is named for its songs,
cast out, carried over ocean waves,
to reel in lost family.
If you listen closely to the soundtrack of a nighttime beach
you can hear the wails of longing.

My mother’s name is Nature
because her eyes are calm like that of a hurricane
and her hand can cure the skinned knees and broken hearts
of life’s storms and rainy days.

My father, his name is Moon
because his face lights up when he smiles,
and his light guides through dark nights,
because, as his shift ends, the sun will take over.

I am that Son.
Born of nature and moon.
I share the calm green eyes of nature
and, as a teen, reflected the moon’s cratered complexion.

I am James Barger,
and you might be able to see more in a name,
far beyond the first words of our introductions,
but I promise
that I will always be
just me.

A Mused by You

It makes me sick the lack of appreciation
for hard work and sweat
poured into the portrayal of emotions.

My friend returned home from beautiful Rome
after an overall fun trip,
but complained about
boring afternoon art gallery tours and
Catholic cathedrals that mean nothing –
enjoyed the clubs and bars better, come evening –
A vacation from urban America… to urban Roman-America.

But that art…

I don’t need galleries to be truly captivated.
A golden leaf blows in my path,
thrown there by a divine artist, saying:
“Look! See what I have made for you?”
And turning the corner, there are just more walls
of framed heartfelt sentiments under precise lighting.
There is no admission for this exhibit
but that of guilt,
because I have never really opened my eyes before.

And then, in the corner, she stands still –
the most carefully sculpted piece in this collection.
She is Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Woman
or Michelangelo’s The Creation of Eve
radiating with the confidence of a Renoir or Dali.
Her presence skews my persistence of memory.

She is a rare work of art, hand-numbered:
one of a kind with the hidden signature of a humble creator.

And I’m just here supporting the arts, not much of an artist myself.
More, an artisan –
stringing nouns and verbs together with connecting words
wound and finished off with tongue-tied knots.
She’ll wear this necklace as a reminder of how beautiful I think she is,
but also of how frail and insignificant outer beauty really is –
easily broken like the jewelry I’ve created with my
limited vocabulary and pop-punk teenage lyricism.

Because it is who she is on the inside,
that hidden signature,
that showcases her true beauty.

The way she laughs in the perfect key –
one that hangs around my neck and gives
passage to the heart.

The way she writes her name when writing to me,
and now I sign mine the way I do
when writing of her.

Totally a mused by you.

Shopping Spree

Let’s go window and book-shelf shopping
and see what we’ve really learned.

All of our knowledge and past histories
have been documented within these pages,

And they say you can’t judge a civilization
by its covers.

I suppose it is what lies hidden that really
accounts for progress – between covers and ears,

Nothing more than gray matter,
but everything.

[ I would like for you to read the dictionary to me,
from A to Z
aardvark to zymurgy,
so that by the time you reach the pronoun you use
for the one that I call myself,
I will not be surprised by anything you could ever say.
When you say “I think I love you,”
I will not run scared, or if you say
“I’m sorry I can’t be with you… it’s not you, it’s me,”
I will not cry or attempt to find courage in sharp crutches –
performing surgery like I used to,
playing doctor alone in my bedroom.
No, I’ll have heard those words,
read from beneath two heavy, dusty covers
and I’ll build a callous for every emotion. ]

Sorry, an aside –
a figment from too many fictions.

I’ll think I’ll face things as they come –
take your hand and finish this intellectual shopping spree.


I can still see the headline today,
newsprint ink burned images into my vision
and I get that sinking feeling again.
You know the one. . .
weak-kneed and stomach as bottomless
as black-holes or swimming pools to a four-year old.
So many people are too proud to admit it, this feeling.
Turned into another four-letter word in households –
“Be a man! Do not admit your fears!”


Well shit, I’ll admit it.
I am afraid.
Of canyons.

Okay, not just canyons,
but wide-open spaces.
They make me feel bottomless.

I have this recurring dream
where I’m falling purposelessly through space,
no oxygen to breathe and no sense of direction.
Floating aimlessly through the final frontier.

When she told me that she needed some space,
I lived that dream all over again,
wandering from the trail
and so,

And canyons are nothing more than that.
One second you’re walking tall,
then you’re falling –
falling into bottomless space.
They start the same way as distance between people –
with stress fractures –
slowly breaking through solid ground and a settled foundation.
Now I see a chasm forming between my legs,
feet planted on either side
and I don’t know how long I can hold it.

I am afraid of spaces,
but take its side if you must.
I will face fear head on
and fight with logic and love.
But be warned that cracks soon turn into canyons
and great divides between kindred souls.
Come back when you are ready.
I’ll be waiting, outstretched,
arms extended over bottomless space,
ready to pull you in
when you make the jump.

The second time I thought I nearly heard the voice of God,
it was amplified with the intake of air through the bent blue-note humming
of a palmed harmonica, tuned to the key of my heart’s backdoor.
And that door has been locked tight for so long
that I had begun to doubt in its existence – forgot it was even there.
It’s kept out so many offerings that seem too good to be true –
from men in business suits with briefcases
to youth in white shirts on bikes.

But the second time I thought I nearly heard the voice of God,
a man came to the backdoor and cried until his greying flesh tinted blue.
And when a man cries the blues, you’re going to have to try to listen.

I invited him in and began to apologize for copying his licks
in a future improvisation when he stopped me,
his breath floating listlessly in the air, the way that time slows to a near stop
when you know that something almost certainly grievous is about to occur.

“Listen here son.  Ain’t no one judging here –
I’m only trying to find some meaning in all these notes
and you can’t copyright sucking and blowing –
it’s all some of us have been doing for years.
Sometimes it’s the only synapse between the heart and the atmosphere,
and sometimes it’s because I’m . . . desperate.
You ask any musician, truck stop inhabitant, or neglected homeless girl
about desperate and you’ll feel the sucking and blowing . . . deep down
in your gut,
like the evening news
or the day you come to terms with the fact
that we are all going to die.”

The temperature had cooled to the point of being noticeable.

“We are all going to die in the end, and that’s the easy part.
It’s living that has tried men’s souls for ages:
Age 6: Developed a fear of stairs – learned that step- anything was nothing
good and started skipping everywhere I went.
Age 14: Skipped school and found a friend in alcohol,
the underneath of clothing, and bike-riding.
Age 22: Peddled bicycles door to door and tried drafting a suicide note
but couldn’t find my writer’s voice.  Began fiddling in Bluegrass.
Age 30: Found my voice again in the music of my past
and forgot what it is to age at all”

The second time I thought I nearly heard the voice of God,
it sent shock waves through to my feet and sent me away skipping.
Made me forget the first time I thought I heard the voice of God.

I still keep doors closed tight but I live a little harder and step a little lighter –
listen more attentively for the sound of a voice,
amplified through blue-note harmonicas
and tuned to the key of my heart’s backdoor.

Night Come True

Night Come True

Let’s imagine it is a night unlike any other.
Standing room only
in a restaurant, making up for lack of eloquent cuisine
with music.

Standing room only in a restaurant,
with music.
Until you knocked me off my feet
with a greeting I could not have even dreamed of…
and poets dream in elaborate tapestries of silk,
putting shame to the cobwebs of dust swept aside
with dreams come true.

I was standing until you knocked me off my feet
with a smile-laced greeting
and a presence that only a god could create.
Perhaps some people are made more so in his image than others.
And I was swept up in a whirlwind with you.
This soundtrack – the most mesmerizing,
taking place outside before a single key was struck or string was plucked.

This was a night unlike any other
and then the music began,
flooding the room with a sea of sound,
white-noise peaks of cymbals washing to shore
in love.

This was a homemade gift or handpicked flowers;
a personalized poem, or a song.
Not Hallmark.
This was love.

Because isn’t love the only real art we have to offer?

Love – I felt it that night,
pressing clothes to my body and becoming more comfortable,
if only subtly,
with a new skin far more beautiful than my own.

This new season has got me thinking.
A night spent with an Aristocrat
and a friend,
carrying away my trials and tribulations with ease.

This was that summer on a couch
and watching all those dreams come back again.

Because I felt it that night
and I hope that you did too.