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by Bob Hicok |

Other Lives And Dimensions And Finally A Love Poem

 My left hand will live longer than my right. The rivers
 of my palms tell me so.
Never argue with rivers. Never expect your lives to finish
 at the same time. I think

praying, I think clapping is how hands mourn. I think
 staying up and waiting
for paintings to sigh is science. In another dimension this
 is exactly what's happening,

it's what they write grants about: the chromodynamics
 of mournful Whistlers,
the audible sorrow and beta decay of Old Battersea Bridge.
 I like the idea of different

theres and elsewheres, an Idaho known for bluegrass,
 a Bronx where people talk
like violets smell. Perhaps I am somewhere patient, somehow
 kind, perhaps in the nook

of a cousin universe I've never defiled or betrayed
 anyone. Here I have
two hands and they are vanishing, the hollow of your back
 to rest my cheek against,

your voice and little else but my assiduous fear to cherish.
 My hands are webbed
like the wind-torn work of a spider, like they squeezed
 something in the womb

but couldn't hang on. One of those other worlds
 or a life I felt
passing through mine, or the ocean inside my mother's belly
 she had to scream out.

Here, when I say I never want to be without you,
 somewhere else I am saying
I never want to be without you again. And when I touch you
 in each of the places we meet,

in all of the lives we are, it's with hands that are dying
 and resurrected.
When I don't touch you it's a mistake in any life,
 in each place and forever.


by Bob Hicok |

Spirit Dity Of No Fax Line Dial Tone

 The telephone company calls and asks what the fuss is. 
Betty from the telephone company, who's not concerned 
with the particulars of my life. For instance 
if I believe in the transubstantiation of Christ 
or am gladdened at 7:02 in the morning to repeat 
an eighth time why a man wearing a hula skirt of tools 
slung low on his hips must a fifth time track mud 
across my white kitchen tile to look down at a phone jack. 
Up to a work order. Down at a phone jack. Up to a work order. 
Over at me. Down at a phone jack. Up to a work order 
before announcing the problem I have is not the problem 
I have because the problem I have cannot occur 
in this universe though possibly in an alternate 
universe which is not the responsibility or in any way 
the product, child or subsidiary of AT&T. With practice 
I've come to respect this moment. One man in jeans, 
t-shirt and socks looking across space at a man 
with probes and pliers of various inclinations, nothing 
being said for five or ten seconds, perhaps I'm still 
in pajamas and he has a cleft pallet or is so tall 
that gigantism comes to mind but I can't remember 
what causes flesh to pile that high, five or ten seconds 
of taking in and being taken in by eyes and a brain, 
during which I don't build a shotgun from what's at hand, 
oatmeal and National Geographics or a taser from hair 
caught in the drain and the million volts of frustration 
popping through my body. Even though. Even though his face 
is an abstract painting called Void. Even though 
I'm wondering if my pajama flap is open, placing me 
at a postural disadvantage. Breathe I say inside my head, 
which is where I store thoughts for the winter. All 
is an illusion I say by disassembling my fists, letting each 
finger loose to graze. Thank you I say to kill the silence 
with my mouth, meaning fuck you, meaning die 
you shoulder-shrugging fusion of chipped chromosomes 
and puss, meaning enough. That a portal exists in my wall 
that even its makers can't govern seems an accurate mirror 
of life. Here's the truce I offer: I'll pay whatever's asked 
to be left alone. To receive a fax from me stand beside 
your mailbox for a week. It will come in what appears 
to be an envelope. While waiting for the fax reintroduce 
yourself to the sky. It's often blue and will transmit 
without fail everything clouds have been trying to say to you.


by Bob Hicok |

The Maple

 The Maple

is a system of posture for wood. 
A way of not falling down 
for twigs that happens 
to benefit birds. I don't know. 
I'm staring at a tree, 
at yellow leaves 
threshed by wind and want you 
reading this to be staring 
at the same tree. I could 
cut it down and laminate it 
or ask you to live with me 
on the stairs with the window 
keeping an eye on the maple 
but I think your real life 
would miss you. The story 
here is that all morning
I've thought of the statement 
that art is about loneliness
while watching golden leaves 
become unhinged. 
By ones or in bunches 
they tumble and hang 
for a moment like a dress 
in the dryer.
At the laundromat 
you've seen the arms 
thrown out to catch the shirt 
flying the other way.
Just as you've stood 
at the bottom of a gray sky 
in a pile of leaves 
trying to lick them 
back into place.


by Bob Hicok |

Sudden Movements

 My father's head has become a mystery to him.
We finally have something in common.
When he moves his head his eyes 
get big as roses filled 
with the commotion of spring. 
Not long ago he was a man 
who had tomato soup for lunch 
and dusted with the earnestness 
of a gun fight. Now he's a man 
who sits at the table trying to breathe 
in tiny bites. When they told him 
his spinal column is closing, I thought 
of all the branches he's cut 
with loppers and piled and burned 
in the fall, the pinch of the blades 
on the green and vital pulp. Surgeons 
can fuse vertebrae, a welders art, 
and scrape the ring through which 
the soul-wires flow as a dentist 
would clean your teeth. 
And still it could happen, one turn 
of his head toward a hummingbird, 
wings keeping that brittle life 
afloat, working hard against the fall, 
and he might freeze in that pose 
of astonishment, a man estranged 
from the neck down, who can only share 
with his body the silence 
he's pawned on his children as love.


by Bob Hicok |

Another Awkward Stage Of Convalescence

 Drunk, I kissed the moon
where it stretched on the floor.
I'd removed happiness from a green bottle,
both sipped and gulped
just as a river changes its mind,
mostly there was a flood in my mouth

because I wanted to love the toaster
as soon as possible, and the toothbrush
with multi-level brissels
created by dental science, and the walls
holding pictures in front of their faces
to veil the boredom of living

fifty years without once
turning the other way. I wanted
the halo a cheap beaujolais paints
over everything like artists gave the holy
before perspective was invented,
and for a moment thought in the glow

of fermented bliss that the bending
of spoons by the will was inevitable,
just as the dark-skinned would kiss
the light-skinned and those with money
and lakefront homes would open
their verandas and offer trays

of cucumber sandwiches to the poor
scuttling along the fringes of their lawns
looking for holes in the concertina wire.
Of course I had to share this ocean
of acceptance and was soon on the phone
with a woman from Nogales whose hips

had gone steady with mine. I told her
I was over her by pretending I was just
a friend calling to say the Snow Drops
had nuzzled through dirt to shake
their bells in April wind. This
threw her off the scent of my anguish

as did the cement mixer of my voice, as did
the long pause during which I memorized
her breathing and stared at my toes
like we were still together, reading
until out eyes slid from the page
and books fell off the bed to pound

their applause as our tongues searched
each others' body. When she said
she had to go like a cop telling a bum
to move on, I began drinking downhill,
with speed that grew its own speed,
and fixed on this image with a flagellant's

zeal, how she, returning to bed, cupped
her lover's crotch and whispered not
to worry, it was no one on the phone,
and proved again how forgotten I'd become
while I, bent over the cold confessional,
listened to the night's sole point of honesty.


by Bob Hicok |

What Would Freud Say?

 Wasn't on purpose that I drilled 
through my finger or the nurse 
laughed. She apologized 
three times and gave me a shot 
of something that was a lusher 
apology. The person 
who drove me home 
said my smile was a smeared 
totem that followed 
his body that night as it arced 
over a cliff in a dream.
He's always flying 
in his dreams and lands 
on cruise ships or hovers 
over Atlanta with an erection.
He put me to bed and the drugs
wore off and I woke 
to cannibals at my extremities. 
I woke with a sense
of what nails in the palms 
might do to a spirit 
temporarily confined to flesh. 
That too was an accident 
if you believe Judas 
merely wanted to be loved. 
To be loved by God, 
Urban the 8th 
had heads cut off 
that were inadequately 
bowed by dogma. To be loved 
by Blondie, Dagwood
gets nothing right 
except the hallucinogenic 
architecture of sandwiches. 
He would have drilled 
through a finger too 
while making a case for books 
on home repair and health. 
Drilling through my finger's 
not the dumbest thing 
I've done. Second place 
was approaching 
a frozen gas-cap with lighter
in hand while thinking 
heat melts ice and not 
explosion kills asshole. First 
place was passing 
through a bedroom door 
and removing silk that did not
belong to my wife.
Making a bookcase is not 
the extent of my apology. 
I've also been beaten up 
in a bar for saying huevos 
rancheros in a way 
insulting to the patrons' 
ethnicity. I've also lost 
my job because lying 
face down on the couch 
didn't jibe with my employer's 
definition of home 
office. I wanted her to come
through the door on Sunday
and see the bookcase 
she'd asked me to build 
for a year and be impressed 
that it didn't lean 
or wobble even though 
I've only leaned and often 
wobbled. Now it's half
done but certainly
a better gift with its map
of my unfaithful blood.


by Bob Hicok |

By Their Works

 Who cleaned up the Last Supper?
These would be my people.
Maybe hung over, wanting
desperately a better job,
standing with rags 
in hand as the window 
beckons with hills 
of yellow grass. In Da Vinci, 
the blue robed apostle 
gesturing at Christ
is saying, give Him the check.
What a mess they've made
of their faith. My God 
would put a busboy 
on earth to roam 
among the waiters 
and remind them to share 
their tips. The woman 
who finished one 
half eaten olive 
and scooped the rest 
into her pockets, 
walked her tiny pride home 
to children who looked 
at her smile and saw 
the salvation of a meal. 
All that week 
at work she ignored 
customers who talked 
of Rome and silk 
and crucifixions,
though she couldn't stop 
thinking of this man
who said thank you
each time she filled 
His glass.