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You are told to believe in one paradise
and then there is the paradise you come to know.
The shoes lined up in pairs by the door
and the herd moving with its mysterious intent
across a dark plain. The blue of the sky
which is the zenith of all colors
and the love of the man in the next room,
strong and rough as a hog’s back.
My mind has a slow metabolism, it is slow
to understand what anything means,
but it understands that if you look at something
long enough, it will have something
to say to you. The sun that is strangely bright
on some days, a poisoned canary,
and the crop of winter rocks in a meadow
in April. Learning decades later
the name of the hospital where you were born
and watching the child eat a mango
as though it is time he is eating, time shining
on his lips. On fewer days I agree
with the poet’s dread of being
the wrong person in the right world, and believe
in adhesion, in never showing up
empty-handed, even if the pleasure I know best
is fused with the abject. There is always
the other side of the heart, its coaxing:
You are here. You can begin again. You can rise.

Rick Barot‘s most recent book of poems, The Galleons, was published by Milkweed Editions in 2020 and was longlisted for the National Book Award. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry, The New Republic, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, and The New Yorker. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Stanford University. He lives in Tacoma, Washington and directs The Rainier Writing Workshop, the low-residency MFA program in creative writing at Pacific Lutheran University.

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