Now it’s time for the lilac, blazon of spring, the prince
of plants whose name I know only when it blooms.
The blooms called forth by a bare measure of warmth,
days that are more chill than warm, though the roots must
know, and the leaves, and the spindly trunks ganged up
by the trash bins behind our houses. The blue pointillism
in morning fog. The blue that is lavender. The blue that is
purple. The smell that is the air’s sugar, the sweet
weight when you put your face near, the way you would
put it near the side of someone’s head. Here the ear.
Here the nape. Here the part of flesh that has no name
at all, the part that is shining because it has slipped naming.
In the crumbling photo album, the dead toddler on a bier,
dead for decades, whose name I now carry. On another
page, the old man, also decades gone, whose same name
I now carry. The name a fossil, the calcium radiance
that I bear and will eventually give up. Again it’s time
for the lilacs. The quiet beautiful things at the sides of the
rec center parking lot. The purple surge by the freeway.
The sprigs I cut from the shrub leaning towards me
from the neighbor’s yard, taking them at night because
I shouldn’t be taking them. The blooms that are a genius
on the kitchen table, awful because I want to eat them
with my terrible eyes, with my terrible hands. The awful
lilacs, the brief lilacs, the sweet. Here is the recklessness
I have wanted. Here is the composure I have earned.
Rick Barot, “The Names” from The Galleons. Copyright © 2020 by Rick Barot. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Milkweed Editions, www.milkweed.org.