“The Names”

From Rick Barot's Poetry Collection, The Galleons

March 2, 2020  By Rick Barot

Now it’s time for the lilac, blazon of spring, the prince
of plants whose name I know only when it blooms.

The blooms called forth by a bare measure of warmth,
days that are more chill than warm, though the roots must

know, and the leaves, and the spindly trunks ganged up
by the trash bins behind our houses. The blue pointillism

in morning fog. The blue that is lavender. The blue that is
purple. The smell that is the air’s sugar, the sweet

weight when you put your face near, the way you would
put it near the side of someone’s head. Here the ear.

Here the nape. Here the part of flesh that has no name
at all, the part that is shining because it has slipped naming.

In the crumbling photo album, the dead toddler on a bier,
dead for decades, whose name I now carry. On another

page, the old man, also decades gone, whose same name
I now carry. The name a fossil, the calcium radiance

that I bear and will eventually give up. Again it’s time
for the lilacs. The quiet beautiful things at the sides of the

rec center parking lot. The purple surge by the freeway.
The sprigs I cut from the shrub leaning towards me

from the neighbor’s yard, taking them at night because
I shouldn’t be taking them. The blooms that are a genius

on the kitchen table, awful because I want to eat them
with my terrible eyes, with my terrible hands. The awful

lilacs, the brief lilacs, the sweet. Here is the recklessness
I have wanted. Here is the composure I have earned.


From Rick Barot’s poetry collection, The Galleons. Copyright © 2020 by Rick Barot. Reprinted with permission of Milkweed. All rights reserved. 

Rick Barot
Rick Barot is the author of The Galleons, as well as three previous collections of poems: The Darker Fall; Want; which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and won the 2009 Grub Street Book Prize; and Chord. Chord received the UNT Rilke Prize, the PEN Open Book Award, and the Publishing Triangle’s Thom Gunn Award. It was also a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry, the New Republic, Tin House, Kenyon Review, and the New Yorker.

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