Rick Barot was born in the Philippines and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. His first book, The Darker Fall, was the winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry and was published by Sarabande Books in 2002. His new book, Want, will be published by Sarabande in early 2008. His poems and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including New England Review, The New Republic, Poetry, and Virginia Quarterly Review. His work has also appeared in many anthologies, including The New Young American Poets, Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation, and Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Stanford University. He lives in Tacoma, Washington and teaches both in the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and at Pacific Lutheran University.


Two poems by Rick Barot


And what part of his reflection will tell me who I am,
that I am standing a little away, wanting in on his story?

Days I am cup, slice, gray, need, therapy. The headache
of the repetition of his voice, telling himself some story.

I am in the city looking for him, forcibly drawn to
the square glass eyes. A light is on in the hundredth story.

The street black as an eel, the wavering look of him
inside a puddle. I play lamp-post to the dark of this story.

The one who sets fire to half the state while setting fire
to letters in the forest. Let her be part of this story.

I am myself in lace, rubber things, oil on every bit of
my body, whip-talk. He loves only the mirrorís story.

A pistol, a knife, plastic tubing, plastic trash bags, spray
gun, a wig, a brick of cash. These are the start of a story.

The one who wrote the letters to begin with, his flawed
love like violets in her hand. Let him be in the story.

Later, the weasels and the otters coming to the stream
to pull up the roots, husked like onions. Eating his story.

Staring into his winter face, lips blue as Krishna because
of his winter face. No one ever got this piece of the story.

I get to be the woods, quiet just under the tongue-tied
lightning, the ever-responding thunder. Bleak with story.


It is something to be thus saved,
           a point on which the landscape
comes to a deep rest.

The ore of a death held
           frozen, there in the gull so far
inland, embedded in the ice

at the riverís edge. Its bulk
           in the thick gloss is darker
than the ice, shoe-shaped,

only the spoon-curved head
           telling you what it is, one eye
open though no longer seeing.

The feet are ribbed, like sails
           tight on a mast. And a thing,
you remember, obliges by lying

down, its back to sky. How long
           it has been like this, this little
a question to the world.

How small of a happening, though
           it happened because
there is witness of it. The width

of water utterly silent,
           the distance a pencil-smudge
of Chinese hills. First its fall,

then immersion, every air discovered
           out of each quill,
its feathers matted with grit.

The day is a white octave, breathing
           its snow, and the bird
delicate, like a bone inside the ear.