Bob Hicok

Advanced anatomy

My heart is a kite. I thought that all yesterday
and finally looked: my heart is a muscle
and kite is prison slang for a note. As many words
as Eskimos have for snow, prisoners have for knife.
My heart is a knife. I thought that ten seconds ago
and as long as I add "sometimes" I think that's right.
Machete or bolo, steak or butter, depending on the way
the wind blows. I flew a kite as a kid as high
as a jet: I say that but don't believe I ever did
exist as a kid. I think I was born at thirty eight
and went straight into middle-management and drinking
and crying. My heart is a hearse or worse:
a curse. People die all the time never having kissed
my lips or flown a kite. Poor lips, poor sky:
who do you look up to and how many kites
can you hold at one time? Poor heart, in your room
all alone, sent to bed without supper or given the chance
any ordinary crow gets to fly. As if
there's such a thing as an ordinary crow. I know:
they're all great and besides, my heart is a purse
where blood comes and goes and change
is always found. Just yesterday I was so happy
that I painted a dragon on my chest, tied a string
to one ankle, a tail to the other
and took a day off from gravity to hang out
with wind. Look at me now, a stone
writing a stone's poem: life is heavy and hard.
My heart is no bard but a liar. Ask it to come in.
It'll either say No one's home or Where have you been
or both. That's what my heart murmur is, the mixed
and garbled truth: if it's possible to feel
eight things at one time, why not nine?
My heart is a radio asking me to dance to static
and I do. The key is elbows and knees,
to keep them sharp and flailing, to accept
that I'm a scarecrow on acid and there's no place
to hide from lightning in an open field. My heart
is the best friend metaphor ever had, is a book,
a ball, a brick, a wall, a fall from a great height
into a thimble of lava, a leaf, a forest, a torrent
of hail or water or screaming, is any and every
but mostly this one thing: the god
whose indifference I'm stuck with.



From one resurrection to another

Thank you for walking your eyes beside mine
along both sides of one ocean and one side
of another; for lifting clouds off my chest;
for buying irises for roses;
for never punching anyone in the face
or setting anyone on fire
or running anyone over with a tank
or drowning a baby in a river
or screaming at a waiter or ants
or signing an arrest warrant
or writing or thinking acceptable losses
in any context or city
imagined or known, present or future,
with ice cream nearby
or far far away; thank you
for forgiving me for being intolerant
of your lactose intolerance—
with frozen yogurt nearby
or far far away; with the universe expanding
and galaxies swimming away from us
and our bodies throwing in the towel
and shouting turning into the new folk music
and April the new December;
thank you for your face,
which is my favorite part of your soul,
which is my favorite part of the ether,
which is my favorite part of knowing
that everything we touch and love
is secretly sunlight, deeply a star
that died and got lost on the way home.



Ode to now

We are squawking, walking, going mad,
going under, undergoing surgery, perjury,
losting and finding, minding our mannerisms
but not the store. We are stalking, hawking,
balking at engaging the mess we have made,
wounds to civility and trees, holes in sky
and soul, too busy, queasy, sensibly in love
with easy ways out or in or through,
depending on the day or door. We: me and you:
we two and we thousand million: we one
and all: how corral tens or billions or even
a few? And to or for what: love?
Of each other, kind, green? How sappy.
I'd be happy for quiet. This place shakes,
vibrates, is coming apart at the seams
as it seems we're afraid to do the most basic thing
we were born to: talk. As in sit and, as in can we,
as in I'd love to have a coffee or gin
or two thousand with you, here and now
or there and then, on Earth as it is in Heaven,
our daily gift of gab and bread, the reachings
of head to head. A word I adore
is adore, I guess breath most of all,
the grab and hold and lift and luck of it,
the chance we won't waste our chance
to be more like rain, to flow and shine,
touch and give as we up and go.



The life of the rough night

I found her in the morning cutting hair from her head
to burn or banish on the river,

a practice run at mourning. Why wait?
She'd risen from bed

to think about the dead getting closer to her parents
by the day, to not sleep

a little differently on the couch from how she'd turned
like a lathe on her side

of dreaming. She'd taken a crowbar to the dark, her eyes red
from trying to break inside

what has no end or center or beginning, while all night
crickets taunted,

Nothing Changes.” If you want to be reborn, die;
if you want to love,

hurry up: what's a year, a decade, a life to water: a person's
a sheaf of rain

in a thirsty world. Rain rain don't go away: there is
no other day.



Bob Hicok is the author of nine poetry collections, including Sex & Love & and Hold (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). Hicok received the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress, as well as eight Pushcart Prizes. He is a professor of creative writing at Virginia Tech.