you are in the diode archives v5n1




Would lightning do?  Would a new watch?
There aren’t going to be any plums, red
ones or green ones.  My white shirt is dirty.
The sunflower is done with flowering.
In each picture, you look like a penguin,
impossible not to like.  More and more
I feel like a church, empty as a kettle
but larger.  Would a river do?  Would it go
backwards if asked?  If I lost you once,
I can lose you twice.  My hand should be
put in a cast.  I should stop making
artichokes out of words.  The weather
is ready to scold the house.  The sunflower
has died.  The last pencil has been eaten.


Question Arising while Listening to
a Lecture on the Nature of Metaphor

Why does it mean
anything that the girl

sitting beside me,
her hair cropped

punk-close on the
sides, long and gelled

stiff at top, her
legs in camouflage

leggings, her boots
black as crude oil,

the odor coming from
her a mixture of

incense and some
kind of bitter and

rocky herb, that
this smell is exactly

the smell of my
grandfather’s sickbed

brew, the last-resort
swamp liquid

a Chinatown-alley
herbalist prescribed

for him on that
summer at the end,

the black water
of the profane

cupfuls meeting the
black waters that

were rising inside?


Tacoma Lyric

Because I was equipped with memory,
the cane fields are still burning somewhere,
the smoke boiling gold and gray.
Before this the workers cut down the high stalks,
and then the fire, like a large animal,
was made to graze away the stubble.
How sweet everything is,
                                         even though I am
on a humid city street, holding pencils
bought from the drugstore.  On my block
there is an Irish bar, a lawnmower repair shop,
and an assisted-living facility.  All this
seems insistently American, like a sky drunk

with fireworks.  To my grandfather the fields
meant one kind of money,  to the workers
they meant another.  I was six years old
and royal, standing on the rusty hood of a Jeep.
At some point my grandfather lost
                     How insistent memory is,
so that even now I can still remember
the shoe store that is now a cupcake place,
the nail salon where there is now a coffee shop.
One winter killed the magnolia sapling
we planted in the yard, another killed
the hydrangea bush that was supposed to light up
with pink flowers. 
                              When my grandfather
was old, he never said anything
about what we left behind.  He loved gambling
and baseball.  He died of cancer in 1996.

Sometimes we hear people roaring
out of the bar, and sometimes the screaming
from assisted-living makes the fire-trucks visit.
The things we look at keep changing:
one day’s sun or another day’s rain; early poppies
one day, late tomatoes another.
                                                     As though
each day was trying to say something,
with a voice that isn’t coming from any throat.  


Rick Barot has published two books with Sarabande Books: The Darker Fall (2002) and Want (2008), which was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and received the 2009 Grub Street Book Prize. His poems have appeared in recent and forthcoming issues of Tin House, West Branch Wired, Memorious, The New Republic, and Poetry. He teaches at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.