390: Cascades 501

390: Cascades 501

390: Cascades 501

Cascades 501
by Rick Barot

The man sitting behind me
is telling the man sitting next to him about his heart bypass.

Outside the train’s window, the landscapes smear by—
the earnest, haphazard distillations of America. The backyards

and back sides of houses. The back lots of shops
and factories. The underpasses of bridges. And then the stretches

of actual land, which is not so much land
as the kinds of water courses and greenery that register

like luck in the mind. Dense walls of trees.
Punky little woods. The living continually outgrowing

the fallen and decaying. The vines and ivies taking over
everything, proving that the force of disorder is also the force

of plenty. Then the eye dilating to the sudden
clearings—fields, meadows. The bogs that must have been left

by retreating glaciers. The creeks, the algae broth
of ponds. Then the broad silver of rivers, shiny

as turnstiles. Attrition, dispersal, growth—a system unfastened
to story, as though the green sight itself

was beyond story, was peacefully beyond any clear meaning.
But why the gust of alertness that comes

to me every time any indication of the human
passes into sight—like a mirror, like to like, even though I am not

the summer backyard with the orange soccer ball resting
there, even though I am not the pickup truck

parked askew in the back lot, its two doors opened
wide, and no one around to show whether it is funny

or an emergency that the truck is like that. Each thing looks new
even when it is old and broken down.

They had to open me up—the man is now telling the other man.
I wasn’t there to see it, but they opened me up.

"Cascades 501," by Rick Barot, from THE GALLEONS by Rick Barot, copyright © 2020 Milkweed Editions. Used by permission of Milkweed Editions.