You are in the diode archives v6n1




Though I was never the dunce
I lived through the time of dunces, a child on a chair
facing a corner, a child wearing a paper cone
on his head and the sun wearing a shadow cone
on the wall, for the crime of thinking
“Washington Crossing the Delaware”
was a dance craze and not a painting,
for answering hatracks to What makes us different
from the apes, finally a little girl

slashed her wrist in the back, everyone mock-screamed
and mock-swooned, it was Catholic school,
we’d all cut our wrists before, the blood was real
but we knew she had lots of it, and in the midst
of the hullabaloo, three children in black, tiny ninjas,
snuck the dunce out of the corner, the room, the building,

out of town, they put him on a bus
to being a sculptor, a divining rod, they put him on a bus
with a sandwich pinned to his lapel and told him
to stand up for music and sit down
for nomenclature, and returned calmly
to third grade, where the rest of us
had burned the four corners down



The more things I build, the more scraps of wood
fill the garage, the bed, & the more I need to build something
to hold them, creating more scraps of wood in my car,
my wife’s purse to cherish, she is half a magician’s assistant,
the top half from the saw trick, when people ask, how
do they do that, I explain how honest magicians are,
much in the way Godzilla is real if you think about it,
a monster did knock down buildings in Japan
breathing fire, I’m telling you I love you

but it doesn’t help much, the world is painful
when I look at graveyards, but also touching
when I stretch across the graves, in one case of a boy
who lived three hours, one hundred and eighty minutes
give or take, obviously we should gather clocks
and blow darts and everything we own in a field
and burn it, dance and in the dancing, start over, you

with just a hoop skirt, me with only the rattle
of words in my head, purity, it’s about purity, it’s winnowing
versus piling up, it’s digging a hole
slightly larger than the hole that will be dug for you
and putting the hole that will be dug for you
into the hole I dig and burying the shovel
at the bottom so none of this will have happened
in the future of the first place.


Silence, a definition

This woman who loves me,
who has memorized the birthmark of my face,
who invited my sperm
to become a sea monster in her fathoms,

she’s never said my name, and I never hers,

like why would a horse call another horse
when it can lean a neck to its side,

such a thorough alphabet in the rain
that the ground knows exactly
what’s being said, and replies
slowly, replies green, with shade


Love and armed robbery  

One teller described the robber as resembling Winston Churchill.

Another said he was wrong, the robber looked like Neville Chamberlin.

To be safe, the police put out an APB on all mid-to-early
twentieth century British Prime Ministers.

At the line-up, one teller said the robber didn’t seem
as well-dressed as these men, the other, that the robber didn’t appear
so prone to Imperialism.

After the line-up, they were asked to wait.

The coffee at the police station tasted like the Diaspora.

One teller told the other teller he was having a nightmare
in which the aristocracy put a gun in his mouth.

The other teller told the first teller she was having a nightmare
in which her husband wore a mask of his face over his face.

She showed him a picture of her husband.

He showed her a picture of his wife kissing her husband.

What a small world, she said.

Actually, it’s pretty big, he replied, thinking of walking
all the way around it, how long that would take, how many pairs of shoes,
the difficulty of oceans—yes, he added, having done the calculations,
it’s a very big world.

Hours later, the police told the tellers
the safest approach was to shoot all the suspects.

To shoot one would be favoritism.

To shoot half would be slipshod.

To shoot three quarters would involve too much math.

One teller said, the ways of authority are inscrutable.

The other teller said, you have lovely incisors.

Really, he replied.

Like a wolf’s, she insisted.

Gray or red, he asked.

She closed her eyes and thought of wolves.

You’re beautiful when you close your eyes and think of wolves, he told her.

Beautiful like a rain forest or beautiful like the Fibonacci series?

He closed his eyes and thought of Brazil and the shell of the chambered nautilus.

Can it be both, he asked.

It can be anything, she replied.


To one person only

The woods I got lost in as a child
are gone. Trees meander now

miles apart. I walk from one
to another, connecting them with a touch

into pairs and quartets, squadrons
flying below the radar

of improvement. The woods
of my neocortex go on

for years but the woods
I learned to say woods in

are gone. The woods I lost
my virginity in were chopped down

for flower boxes and bungalows, kindling
reminds me of what I see

in the mirror. The mountain
is hairy with trees but bereft

of you, we never walked there, my chance
to walk there with you

is gone. Woods in fog with you, rain with you,
in snow listening, snow listens

to footfalls, breaths, it’s the spaces
between crystals: almost forgiveness, ears.  


Bob Hicok’s most recent collection, Elegy Owed, is due out soon from Copper Canyon Press. His previous collections include Words for Empty and Words for Full (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010) and This Clumsy Living (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), awarded the 2008 Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress. His other books are Insomnia Diary (Pitt, 2004), Animal Soul (Invisible Cities Press, 2001),a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Plus Shipping (BOA, 1998), and The Legend of Light (University of Wisconsin, 1995), which received the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry and was named a 1997 ALA Booklist Notable Book of the Year. A recipient of five Pushcart Prizes, a Guggenheim, and two NEA Fellowships, his poetry has been selected for inclusion in six volumes of Best American Poetry.