Home > Poetry > Magnolia
Published: Sat Jul 1 2006
Wosene Worke Kosrof, The Inventor V (detail), 2022, acrylic on linen. Courtesy of Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, California

A story gets told, begins to hold fast,
and like rain brings back a thing more

than just itself, one more small noise
appearing in the laundromat, small bird

or cell-phone ring suddenly chirping,
one more office for the eye and ear

to momentarily inhabit, the work of my
nearness that much more urgent, now

there is this story I can tell you about,
now I have you listening, the way

the radiator has kept us listening all of
these nights, the din of its dreaming

the noise of picks and axes deep inside
a mine, the steam in its pipes forcing

a drowsiness on the miners, listening
for some other dream it could have:

say, that two people are quiet within
the cold light of an all-night laundromat,

the only thing open this late, this dark,
one of them telling a story of the dead

president traveling days past the big
and small towns, his train a vivid grief

of flowers thrown by the townspeople
beside the tracks, one telling this

story while the other only half listens,
until the story gets to the part about

the summertime heat, the body traveling
for days, the flowers a necessary cover

for the smell the body is giving out,
there is this other way that flowers can

mean something, not just mourning, not
just beauty, but a necessity that keeps us

awake through the story, the radiator’s
other dream, half of their clothes making

a psychedelic circle of colors spinning
in the glass of a dryer, the white clothes

spinning in another dryer, like a magnolia
opening and destroying itself over and

over, the image a nearness, my being
near, my being afraid that this is already

the past I will remember in the future,
this is the meat that the mind’s mandibles

get to have, dying, because death gets
to have all it wants: say, the doctor’s

funhouse reflection in the patent-leather
shoe of the dead president, the boy who

finally understands that the secret to
getting hit is knowing that you will be hit,

the flight attendant mis-speaking to us
as the plane glided toward the starry field

that we would be in the ground shortly,
and though I laughed at that, I knew

I would find the right word for you, place
it into her mouth, the flower of it in her

mouth, I would correct the world in this
manner, because you are listening, it is

raining outside the laundromat, the driest
part of your body the small of your back.

The second collection of poetry from Rick Barot, Want, is forthcoming from Sarabande Books. His first book, The Darker Fall, was published by Sarabande in 2002. He teaches at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. (updated 6/2006)

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