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“Horses Impasto,” “Breath Bluff,” and “The Gauntlet”


Horses Impasto


In horse vision the horses recognized
the sparkle of a junkyard in the Death Valley distance

Though as horses, they lacked the ability to see in reds

So the far-off pile of cars looked like Braque’s
                                                        early Cubism

And though the horses could not see in reds, they saw
vividly                  in blues and yellows

Which meant the spring grass glowed like high performance anti-freeze.

On a windy night, the horses fell asleep
navigating the thousands of ant hills in the Land of Cones

By morning, they awoke to a serene pasture.

Someone was far off, on a hill—
maybe, plein air painting.

One of the horses paused, thought of history, thought of how
realistic it looks, and returned to the scenery.


Breath Bluff


There are moments when I glance through
the material world

finding the illusion of sides in a threshold

And I know the others will want me to focus on distractions:
cubes, owls, pumpkins, dots, powder, cones, balloons,
shells, Jupiter, werewolves, hills, reality.

When down the road comes a black-hatted figure
in a white Buick

resembling a thought from a certain region
we never see behind the head

From a great distance
beyond any instrument to tell it by

A garage door opens with flashing pad.

Pre-programmed in the trees, the birds
act like they don't see us.


The Gauntlet


If we start with a set of all things
that can’t be imagined
And add five people dressed as extras—
roaming in a parable of space
Then it proceeds that two rams
placed in the middle
might make things interesting.

Something unbearably loud
echoes from the upper reaches
As if enormous vents have opened above
And clouds and waterfalls pour out
onto the basin.
There’s a single cone in the center,
from which black lava flows.

The room is increasingly
a negative space
And one of the people
happens to be an entrepreneur—
thinking about the children’s
lemonade stand.

At the blind end
No one can see what is happening.
The sound of the rams clattering
mortifies all five
Who began standing on each other
to find a way out vertically.

“I’ve seen a movie where this
doesn’t work,” says one of them,
an actor. Icicles began forming
on their clothing. “How does
it end?” says another.

“The world gets so small…
so very small,” they say…
When suddenly the sound is turned off.

The rams range far enough away
to become only shapes of rams.

The entrepreneur is worried
about money.
The rams are worried that
there aren’t any mountains.
And the actor is worried that
the career of this world
is one of play.

From the distance
a giant bar rotates through space—
coming at them, beginning to glow
as the background darkens.

At the bar are five human shapes,
grasping five cold piña coladas.


Hans F. Wagner is a writer, musician, and visual artist. He is the author of three books of poems on his own Meadow Lair Press. His fourth book, "The Vegas Layer," is forthcoming (2024) on Lithic Press.

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