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About this Poem 

“Traveling the few hours from Tacoma to Portland, what I really wanted to do was read. But between the visual novelty from outside and the fragments of conversations I overheard inside, reading wasn’t going to happen. Instead, like any writer who realizes he or she is being given something, I started writing it all down.”
Rick Barot

Cascades 501

The man sitting behind me
is telling the man sitting next to him about his heart bypass.

Outside the train’s window, the landscapes smear by—
the earnest, haphazard distillations of America. The backyards

and back sides of houses. The back lots of shops
and factories. The undersides of bridges. And then the
        stretches

of actual land, which is not so much land
but the kinds of water courses and greenery that register

like luck in the mind. Dense walls of trees.
Punky little woods. The living continually out-growing

the fallen and decaying. The vines and ivies taking over
everything, proving that the force of disorder is also the force

of plenty. Then the eye dilating to the sudden
clearings—fields, meadows. The bogs that must have been left

by retreating glaciers. The creeks, the algae broth
of ponds. Then the broad silver of rivers, shiny

as turnstiles. Attrition, dispersal, growth—a system unfastened
to story, as though the green sight itself

was beyond story, was peacefully beyond any clear meaning.
But why the gust of alertness that comes

to me every time any indication of the human
passes into sight—like a mirror, like to like, even though I am
        not

the summer backyard with the orange soccer ball resting
there, even though I am not the pick-up truck

parked in the back lot, its two doors opened
wide, and no one around to show whether it is funny

or an emergency that the truck is like that. Each thing looks 
        new
even when it is old and broken down.

They had to open me up—the man is now telling the other
        man.
I wasn’t there to see it, but they opened me up.

Copyright © 2015 by Rick Barot. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2015 by Rick Barot. Used with permission of the author.

Rick Barot

Rick Barot

Rick Barot is the author of Chord (Sarabande Books, 2015). He teaches at Pacific Lutheran University and lives in Tacoma, WA. 

by this poet

poem

What are we supposed to make
of the granite block dragged across the dirt lot

behind a tractor that has been instructed
to build up a mound out of the displaced dirt, a mess

far away from what we would call the aesthetic
and more to do with the disturbance

of fresh graves or

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