diode v9n1



I’d like you to meet someone

I prefer misunderstanding Kierkegaard
in the original.

With the book on my lap,
I turn the pages
to soothe the pigeons
so I can feed them and keep
the machinery of the park going.

I like the military precision
of the black marks
I can’t read, and the pigeon
missing its left leg,
and the sound of music
in my head, drifting over
from thirty years back, a span of time
in which a man was born,
got married, had a child, and died
in a war, sitting now beside me,
writing over and over
on a slip of paper,
I am afraid of ghosts.


Using all the facts and desserts at my disposal

Was sitting around
emitting light. Just a pinch.
Just one one-thousandth
of what the human eye
can perceive. Just enough
to claim I’m eternal.
As abiding as the universe
through which my photons slide.
The oldest flecks of me
are 323 trillion miles away
and have barely started
flying. Was sitting outside
Welby’s Cafe, just, you know,
glowing, when this guy asked
was I gonna finish my strudel.
I was. I am completely committed
to apple strudel and apple pie.
But he was thin, little more
than a sapling surprised
one morning to notice
it had a mind. I realized
he’s as much a flashlight
as I am, so gave
my strudel up. Slid the plate
over. He ate it
the way a forest fire
surfs down an avalanche
during a hurricane
in the little movie
I’m making of the tumult
of life. I love nature
for asking me to be in it.
He licked the plate
and the fork and the sky
licked back. And then
he thanked me
stinking, shining.


An invitation

Some people are sure they were a prophet
or queen in a former life. I was a brushfire.
A ham sandwich. A crossbow. Before all that,
I gouged a bowl into the base of a mountain,
small enough never to be mistaken for a lake,
big enough to make the wild personal.
It took years to create a circle to hold rain
to hold my face when I bent over to wash.
I wonder if I wondered then why I never look
like I belong in my face, why I always believe
I’m seeing a bird crossing the sky
off its list of things to believe in
when I look in my eyes. This may be
the strangest way I’ve ever asked someone
to step onto my porch and sit with me
while the sun goes down and the shapes
come out carrying bones on their backs
from one hole in the ground to another.
But do, please, put down your anvil.
I’ll only talk about and as much like music
as I can, in the spirit of flutes, of an etude
played by a hammer in one hand and a whisper
in the other. And whatever you were
before whatever you are now,
these floorboards will creak the same
when you rock back and forth
in homage to the sea.


For diagnostic purposes, a sonogram of sorts

I like pushups, don’t ask me why.
Sorry, that’s rude—I shouldn’t tell you
what to do, even while you’re on my back,
counting how many times I lift you
toward the sun and take you away
from that silly star. I once
smuggled a ladder and chair
onto a roof and sat on the chair
on top of the ladder during a full eclipse
of all my worries
for a minute of living
like a well-balanced meal,
only to fall off and break a rose
trying as hard as I was
to climb the waterfall
of the few days that will have us.
The one thing I’ll never know
is the view from my back.
I hope you tell me
about every passing shadow
of every leaving bird,
and everything you want and everything
we’d need to connect
my head to yours, the drill,
the tube, the prayer, even the music
of sufficient crying and laughter
to speed our essences on their way.
I hope a lot and hop
even more, sometimes
on a pogo-stick but mostly
unaided by the slightest bit
of decorum, the rules
for the faces to wear
to the séances we never asked to attend,
but here we are, trying to speak
to the dead people we’ll be
with the living mouths we have
that can hold, as far as my research shows,
only one butterfly at a time
without damage to either party.

Stress mismanagement

Around seven p.m., I often notice my shoulders
are on top of my head. Doctors call it tension,
philanthropists sign checks, philanderers
in Flanders make language
worth the price of admission, leaving me alone
to iron out the crease in my forehead
by staring at a river or breathing
through my feet like a Buddhist
without shoes in the park reading Godot
and giggling. Weird to me that something
as liquid as a person needs to learn
to relax, all because your boss
is a typhoon or money won’t come
when you call it or life’s
a plastic grocery bag
stuck to the tumbleweed of your heart,
if this is a movie and none of us
are Francois Truffaut. Rivers are cool
because any time you look at one,
what you’re seeing becomes
unseeable as you see it,
replaced by a fresh incarnation
of roil and tumble, and there you have
the best psychologist or philosopher
you’ll ever not talk to, and pretty
in the bargain. I keep thinking
the way forward into the ease
I see in dogs is to pay someone
with a tattoo gun to etch backward
on my eyeballs, Dude, be the Danube,
and give up on consciousness
ever after, but there’s the rub—I keep thinking,
or as Jung or Li’l Abner put it,
striking wet matches in the rain.

Two steps forward, eight to the side

The novelist recalls the advice
of a more famous novelist—write what you know.
He knows his wife is having an affair
with her gynecologist, so he writes about speculums
and stirrups. He knows he’d like a wolf
to circle their house at night, so he makes
page 217 howl. He knows it would be healthy
to jump from a plane right after
his parachute is thrown into the sky,
so he does so, slipping into the harness
and pulling the chord just in time.
When his wife sees his hair whooshed up
from his forehead like a crown,
she recognizes the man she fell in love with,
who one summer, when everyone else
was wearing pastels and discussing Basquiat,
went everywhere with a doorknob
tied to a string around his neck,
and refused to explain to anyone, even himself,
why. Even when they met the Buddha on the road,
and the Buddha asked if there was a door
the novelist was waiting for, he shrugged
and kicked the Buddha in the shins.
Hard. And the Buddha, being a good Buddha,
thanked him for doing so, took out a flask,
and pointed at the light changing from yellow
to orange over the hills, the three of them
drinking the flask empty as the sun went down,
then looking at each other
with the most common human expression,
the one that means, basically, What now? 

The pure impurity of art

The side effect of this pill I was on
was that I made documentaries in my sleep.
I won a SAG Award one year and didn’t know it
for a movie about the black market
in dinosaur bones. One day I noticed a tuxedo
in the back of my closet, and a key grip
and best boy in there with it,
who explained all about our limited budget
and passion for the truth. By then
I was off the drug and feeling much better.
The growth had shrunk to the size
of a small tomato or a huge piece of hail,
and it was thought I’d soon resume
a normal existence, without any evidence
such a thing exists. When I broke
the bad news of my improving health to them,
they cried. I didn’t have it in me
to tell the best boy I was pretty sure
there’s a better boy out there somewhere.
They perked up when I pointed out
I’d certainly get sick again, when maybe
we could tackle the question of why
does one day seem so similar
to every other, and yet we hate
that this sameness must come to an end.
They liked that idea a lot,
almost as much as I enjoy thinking
I’ll go up in a balloon one day
and look down on people who wave,
even though they don’t know who I am
or if I plan to drop dead fish
on them or roses. Though between
the two of us, it’s roses.


Baby steps

Long ago, my father began dressing himself
for his death. He didn’t trust anyone else
with the task. He also dug the hole,
gathered the flowers, and cried
while talking about what a great
and kind man he was. He got very good
at not blushing during the eulogy
and not complaining when dirt was dropped
on his head. He went on living
as he was dying and dying as he was living,
always prepared, always thorough,
but never once chased a butterfly
that I knew of. It might have happened,
since parents have these secret lives
children don’t know about—doors
they walk through hidden in bookcases
and mistresses disguised as infatuations
with model trains—but joy isn’t a hat
I ever saw him wear. He was too busy
labeling his label gun LABEL GUN
to let down the hair he’d never grow
over his ears in case it’d keep him
from hearing death’s approach. Death
which rides a horse or drives a stick
or has a go-cart—who really knows?
When my father finally died,
we didn’t notice,
as he’d been practicing
for years. He
was like the boy who cried wolf
or squid or avalanche.
And since he’d want me
to learn from his life, I’ve tried
to be the boy who cries Yippee
and does a wheelie, even when
his hover craft is in the shop.  


Bob Hicok’s 8th book is Sex & Love & (Copper Canyon, 2016).