archives fall 2007




I’m thinking of visiting your stained-by-pee futon
with the hole in the end for mice in the spare corner
for a week of your translucent coughing if you’ll let me
go out for the Thai you love not to eat most of all
to walk with you the moment you have strength on the roof
for ten steps toward the Hudson and throw
the phone he never calls you on at New Jersey
where he never calls you from perhaps to watch you smoke
long after you should have stopped being alive
against the window as rain doesn’t fall and you slip
on the lapis wig under the gaudy influence of which
you said last time lifting your arms in a cross
I suspect of feeling like needles “I resemble
the Final Solution” and promised to apologize
to the lighter blue numbers on your aunt’s wrist
or “help me wash the windows” like the time before
clean as ammonia smells painful so the old man’s
windowbox roses were a clear picture in your life
it is dusk you say all the time I believe
it was the right choice to let you spell
to run from triple score to triple score
in Scrabble pustule with an extra s like language
was hissing at us I am thinking of visiting
I mean it this time very soon I promise
the field we played in to see if it’s been killed
by a mall or if the grass I find there remembers us
and tell you as you’ve always had the bright bones
to do the truth that I can’t look at anything these days
but Speed Racer over and over so we could sing I suppose
about the “powerful Mach 5” if I brought the CDs
and not get tired of the announcer saying
in almost every episode as if to reassure us
benevolence is watching and we’re part of it
that Racer X is Speed’s long lost brother Rex
and feel all things are brightly drawn and connected
just below the surface by sly equations like Racer X=Rex  



The cutting board falls sideways
because of the cookie sheet behind it
and breaks the Krups carafe.
I go on-line thinking Krups
made munitions for Germany using Jews
to death to find they sell the carafe
for not much and order it,
hoping slave labor’s not involved.
I make coffee with the press-pot
and notice that we’re out of pain killers
for Sasha’s hips, when they don’t
actually kill the pain, do they,
just like I don’t really love you
to death, I do actually love you
for putting the green bottle
of no more pain killers out
where I’d see it while I was thinking,
thanks to Krups, of tefillin, sacred words
on parchment in kosher leather boxes
strapped to the forehead is excellent
devotional weirdness in my book and how many
cups of coffee does this press-pot make?
Sasha limps more and more these days, as do I,
your ears are ringing off the hook, God
is calling to say He’s not coming, a local kid
was killed yesterday in the war, shot
clean through the head. What’s clean
about this? Dirty through, nasty through,
toothsome and biting through,
I’ve been working on the lexicon, all
the live long day. While my coffee’s
too hot to drink, the wind picks up 
to tell me I better ask if you’d prefer
not buying anything by Krups, like you don’t
want a Volkswagen, even though the new Bug’s
cute, because of the six million
instances of ash you’re a part of, like every drop
of water’s a citizen of its cloud. We can do that,
cancel the order, stop drinking coffee,
use the Greek word phylactery instead
of tefillin, which I enjoy saying, phylactery,
it sounds like factory and prophylactic
put together, doesn’t it seem
like every second, if you stop, has this whole life
inside it that is so completely yours,
it would die without you dying to never be
without it? I want to live to be three hundred
and sixty two. We should have
a new coffee pot by then that doesn’t makes us
feel like we’re waking to genocide, though we are
and good morning.  


Mean love poem

Glasses off,
you are beautiful.
My glasses.  


Moving day

New emotion, call it feeling
like the room must be removed
from the room. And still,

you know what the painting of the girl
standing on a cliff is thinking,
so the next person in the chain
removes your memory of the painting
and the removal of the room. Yet these

persist wherever they are removed to,
so that that place, if the new emotion
is truly to be a washing away of the room,
must be removed, and the memory of that removal
removed and taken some other place,
which must then be removed. We are quite

far away now, hands aching from all the lifting,
the sun barely visible over the low buildings
of the square. On the work end of this new emotion
is another, call it feeling I’m a snow globe
waiting years to be shaken to a pulse
of whitenesses burning against the glass,
ticklish for the moment they settle again
to peace, dependent on you to feel it’s time
for a little storm in your gestures, to set
your adamancy free.


Mr. X

Thinking of a kid who doesn’t want to say he’s still
using heroin. He’s six minutes old and the cut
below his eye’s on fire just beneath
the visible wavelengths. I suspect
he’ll drop out of college and washing his clothes.
He’ll go to New York, which is my favorite actor,
how tall it stands and green in the middle
of murder or love, and then Africa,
because getting around is like practicing death,
the unknown cliffs and call to prayer in the morning
in a city he can’t speak to. Were I a sailor,

I’d cut my ship loose one night and miss it
the rest of my life, go looking in ports
with my eyes closed. I sense wandering in him
on a suicidal scale, like he’ll pick a fight
with the ocean. When I came into Heraklion,
I spent hours on the concrete blocks
along the shore, they’re shaped like jacks, those
we scooped as tots while a ball bounced,
and three times as big as a man. People
and sunlight went by and that was enough for me,

but this kid, I fear he wants a bullet in every second,
for time to be furious and piercing
and will make it so by putting his face
through a windshield each day. There are so many
round things, like an O in the arm, the O of poets,
that gasping sound, that syllable of praise
we offer in lieu of sense. How romantic,
the poem he’s writing in his skin, this kid
who doesn’t know what he’s trying to let go
and so throws everything in.


My most interesting job

I was a tummy phffffter. They train you
with babies to bury your face to the lips
and blow. Kept the terminals giggling, wriggling,
it got Pavlovian, my voice equaled smile.
So many rooms in the hospital, had to run,
shave thrice a day, be nice, that ouched
my mind. The older the more like pussy
willow, pillow it was to hide my crying
in their dying, I was trying to make amends,
the something rends, soul I think, never loses
its baby smell. Quit. Up and. Tried for days
to pretzel my head to my gut to feel what all
the fuss was about, struck out. Paid a woman
fifty bucks to explain: it tickled, the fart sound
distracted me from me, so of course I said, again.


Once more & accidentally, epistemology breaks out

The picture of a black hole in my dictionary’s
neat, a funnel though not functional,
otherwise it would swallow the dictionary
and my guitar with its broken g-string, my sexy,
sexy guitar. Nothing’s this tidy, even scalpels
have doubts. It’s only occurring to me
now that a black hole, offered a mirror,
would suck it down. What a lonely existence,
never seeing yourself, like Paul Simon
singing, I am a rock, I am an i-i-i-island.
That’s an old song if you don’t know, I’m an old guy
in case I’m trying to pretend, with silver
hair on my neck because I haven’t shaved it
all summer. My deer wife dearly wants me to,
I’ll discuss black hole existentialism
with her today at lunch, we’ll wonder
why they’re called black holes, if it’s a racial
or sky thing, I’ll promise to shave my neck
if she’s been having a bad day, work is often
a suck-hole of indeterminate color. The edge
of where things break down should be edgier
in depiction, I have faith it is in fact, the star
or dishwasher being torn apart not wanting to be,
the hunger to tear knowing only that job:
the rabbit runs, the wolf chases,
winter seals its mouth around the wolf.
But it’s wrong of me to pick on a dictionary
that’s served me so well. What’s this, I ask it,
usually it tells me, though now and then,
it shrugs. I like that, when it and I
are sitting here, stumped, the sun
transiting anyway, and I go forward
with this small hole in what I know
joining the vastness of my confusion. The Buddha
would tell a black hole, desire only feeds
desire, right before it squished him down
to Buddha matter. But of course he wouldn’t mind,
Buddha doesn’t mind anything, not even
that the mind takes what’s offered
without thanks, wanting only more, as if
on the other side of us
it’s putting together this one room
in which everything fits, and the light
pouring in never has to leave, and we’re not there
to mess things up, so pristine does consciousness
want to be. So I need to say to consciousness,
the hell with you, but it won’t let me.
You see the bind I’m in. Spell-check
just misbehaved and I learned the word transude.
Every day I get sucked in deeper
to knowing things and knowing that the things
I know won’t keep me from going where I’ll go.
At least I know how quicksand feels, never
being able to escape itself, even when I throw it
a rope.


The naturalist

You wouldn’t know, to look
at a pileated woodpecker,
that its tongue is bifurcated, begins

on either side of its nostril,
wraps around and under its skull,
enters the base of the palate,

the halves finally joining
at the tip. Freaky. What a mad
scientist nature is. You still

owe me twenty bucks, by the way,
and I’m still in love
with your wife. Keep the twenty,

buy me a strawberry poison frog
instead. Elephants walk on their toes.
It’s pointless to study the heart.  


Bob Hicok’s most recent book is This Clumsy Living (Pittsburgh, 2007). His other books include Insomnia Diary (2004), Animal Soul (2001), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Plus Shipping (1998), and The Legend of Light (1995), which won the 1995 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry and was named a 1997 ALA Booklist Notable Book of the Year. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, and The American Poetry Review, and have been included in three volumes of The Best American Poetry. Awarded an NEA Fellowship in 1999, his work has also been reprinted in the Pushcart Anthology. A selection of poems from This Clumsy Living was among a group of poems awarded the Jerome J. Shestack Prize for the best poems published in American Poetry Review. He is currently Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Virginia Tech.