Rick Barot

GIRL CARRYING LADDER

 

On the same day I read about the luxury-goods company
that has produced a punching bag you can buy for $175,000, 

I see the photograph of the Palestinian girl who carries a ladder
with her each morning when she goes to school. To scale 

the wall of my own understanding of why a punching bag
would cost so much, I have to think about why I’m attracted to 

that punching bag the way some people are attracted to pink
kittens or the way some people are attracted to camouflage 

or the way some people are attracted to their gods. I want that
punching bag the way the girl carrying the ladder wants to go 

to school, relentless, single-minded, and absurd. Carrying
the ladder that is twice or three times as tall as she is, leaning 

the ladder against the wall that separates her from her school, 
the girl goes up the ladder as though it were something she did 

every day, which she does. When I think of a punching bag
I think of sex. When I think of a ladder I think of picking apples. 

When I think of the girl carrying the ladder to go to school, 
I think of the neighborhood girls carrying pink camouflage 

backpacks, not knowing about the armies that the camouflage
stands for. The logo of the luxury brand is printed all over

the punching bag the way camouflage is all over us: camouflage
bed-sheets, camouflage cell-phone covers, camouflage shirts 

in neon colors that everyone wears, even the people who vote
against guns. We live in paradox and prosper. We live in 

paradox and thrive. What I can’t figure out is how the girl deals
with the barbed wire at the top of the wall she has to go over. 

Or what the ladder weighs. Or what she does with the ladder
when she gets to school. Does she put it against a wall with 

the other ladders, the way kids put their bikes in bike racks
at school? What I can’t figure out is why two men who look 

like gods would want to break down the wall of each other’s
faces, knowing there is only blood on the other side. Or why 

apples are the fruit children bring their teachers, and why
it isn’t coconuts or grapefruit. Or why the neighborhood girls, 

on their way to school each morning, carry backpacks that are
so heavy it looks like they are carrying the world on their backs.

 


RICK BAROT is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Chord (Sarabande Books, 2015), a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the PEN Open Book Award. He directs The Rainier Writing Workshop, the low-residency MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University. He is also the poetry editor of New England Review.

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