Rick Barot

West 16th Street

Light glossing on the breakers, then disappearing.
You say it is mortal that way: silver, then gone.
On the phone, it becomes the distance I listen for,
the waves talking just behind you. Here, it is quietly
confusing to be at this height, the city’s colors
rising to an electric sky, its dense gray yellowed,
drawing from neons, chimneys, and windows
which declare themselves awake, for now.
For clarity, I pick one car pulsing among the red
sequence on the bridge; I follow to where its road
ends, headlights staring into a wall of trees.
You tell me how you were in the ocean for hours,
the heaving that took you under for deep seconds,
the salt warmth flowing from your nose and ears
long after you left the water. Tonight, you are
as far away as the house suddenly lit behind
the trees, a pond taking in the light rain, the leaves
dropping into it. The traffic on the bridge lessens,
some windows go out for the night. Sleep
might be a water shuddered into, or a mere falling.
It is not lasting mercy. It is only brightness or
it is dark. I cannot stop the surf from taking you in,
or the leaves from dissolving to silt. You stand
by the shoreline on another coast, and to me this
may be the form of perfect wanting, the logic
of a heart unsatisfied. But it is not purpose, it is
not proof. The meadow in the dream is polite
at first. Then wind slams every window and door,
testing the soundness of an argument. I will wake.
Something will be finished, the morning will be sad.

Rick Barot
West 16th Street is from the collection Want (Sarabande Books, 2008).