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.



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