you are in the diode archives fall 2009



In light of the body

Reading of dinosaurs in dinosaur light. The compressed bones
of t-rexes dug by someone like Steve Mooney from a hole
in a mountain and put on a train for a power plant
in West Virginia.

The best light switches have a definitive snap.

With enough time and pressure after he dies, Steve Mooney
could become a diamond. A woman wears Steve Mooney
on her finger to announce her love for her husband,
if we’re still doing that. The flat rock I glued
to the round rock like a mortar board
is who knows where. She’s unaware
of the irony of a coalminer who becomes a diamond.

If no one hears a tree fall on irony, does it say “ouch?”

A definitive snap in an empty room, when people
are moving out or moving in, when they’re about to cry
because they’re leaving or about to make love
on a stack of coats for a first or last time in a house
that has meant or will mean everything to them.

Light of dread lizards.

Twenty years ago, had you asked what I’d do tomorrow,
I never would have said, go into a crawl space
where the mouse lives we can’t get out
with the shed skin of a snake and the jaw of a raccoon
and replace the sump pump.

I look at air now and know it’s full of corners
I can’t see around, that I breathe
those futures in, making them pasts, and breathe them out,
making them futures again, that making
goes on and on and people who shape things
are happier than people who don’t.

Who hold time.

Who are held by time.

And then, and easier: the letting go.


Domestic life

I took a sugar ant to the prom. She wore
a low-cut blue dress. We made out
and stayed up till dawn. Years later,
there she was with several hundred friends,
touching everything with colonial intentions.
She looked the same. I didn’t know ants
lived that long. I told her
I’d been climbing the walls
and that seemed natural enough to her.
I’ve ceded the kitchen to the ants.
While signing the treaty, I wondered if ants
ever get their handwriting analyzed.
“You are single minded. You have a tendency
to protect the queen.” In that, all ants
are English. I’m thinking
of giving the living room to raccoons,
the upstairs to bats, my brain
to science, but I’m afraid science would say,
no thanks. Then I want a dog’s brain
put in my head. I will dig, I will bark,
I will turn and turn and turn
before sleep. To settle the grass.
To reenact the circle. People will scratch
behind my ears. I’ll stand
beside the table, understanding hands
as that which provides chicken
when there is chicken and meatloaf
when there is meatloaf. What will I miss?
The word ovoid. Knowing the sun
pulls the night behind it
like a child dragging her blankey
as she comes to be kissed goodnight.


All law enforcement is local

I didn’t see the cows for a few days
and called the police.

            —can you describe them?


The cows are back this morning.

I’m going to bake a pie for the detectives
who broke the case.

Apple pie.

Cherry pie.

Blueberry pie.

I hate making crusts.

I love peeling blueberries.

I love the world and everything in it or on it or beside it.

That’s not true.

Now that I’m buds with the fuzz, I need to tell the truth.

I don’t love root canals, don’t love satellite debris.

I don’t love the Nestle corporation, which is pumping water
from streams, putting it in bottles and selling it back
to the people who live with the streams.

Now that the cow case is solved, I’m going to ask my cop chums
to arrest the Nestle corporation.

            —can you describe them?

            —they make yummy chocolate, they deplete aquifers.

Imagine putting a corporation in a squad car. 

Imagine going to the tap and nothing coming out.

Imagine being seventy percent sand.

I can’t remember from my church days what makes holy water

Probably that it is water.


The reconciliation of art

The devil is nominated for an Oscar.

He looks good on the red carpet
saying nice things about his co-star.

The night is so exciting, he forgets to pee.

Just before he wins, he pisses himself.

No one knows the devil’s anatomy, so at the podium,
he explains that he cries down there.

There is a sigh of recognition, as if this
is the missing fragment in Hollywood’s understanding
of evil.

Women look at their husbands and wonder
if it’s not the same for them, there is a silent
and massive reconsideration of the wet dream,
the blow job.

Later, the devil speaks to the press:

            The director is as mad and wonderful as they say.

            His children are supposed to be in bed
            but he hopes they’re up.

            Though he loved being an angel, that is behind him now.

            Without his craft, he would be lost, truly lost.

Before the parties, he’s able to break away for a smoke.

In one hand, a golden man, in the other, a Newport
from a key grip named Ronnie.

Stars are barely visible but he sees them and wants them
to see his happiness.

Thank you God thank you God thank you God, he says.

You are welcome, God says, in the shape of the best boy
stepping up to give him a light.


the commute

a small boy flings an octopus at the moon.

thinking, this is why suction cups,
thinking, i’ve escaped bedtime
and must make it count.

when he’s older, when he’s eleven
and driving to work, smoking the day’s
first cigarette, riding the ass
of the car in front of him,
which likewise, in a chain
on to Sparta, on to Troy,
he remembers the octopus
waving goodbye, all those arms
without hands, all that solitude
without a kiss.

the other people in the car
are asleep, their open mouths
remind him of vowels, of sounds that hold
other sounds together.

very quietly, on tiptoe, he plays piano
in his head.

very quietly, a woman three cars up
plays piccolo in her head.

the man to their side
waving the baton in his head
is proud, proud as can be,
this is a difficult piece, harder even
than life, harder even
than being God,
since who would tell you,
comb your hair, brush your teeth,
put your pants on
if you are God?

the Devil
is the only one who could,
but like a robin
who can’t sing, the Devil
says nothing to God.

pianissimo, the boy thinks,
feeling the root of his tongue
move with the thought,
which leads to the new thought,
“the tongue has a root,”
which leads to the new thought,
“i am the only proof

of the theory of me.”  


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.