Bob Hicok

Three Poems


To this day I like lick­ing nine volts, the zots
from the cold met­al poles and am sor­ry a lit­tle bit
that lick­ing my wife isn’t like that, a lit­tle bit
that air isn’t one hun­dred and twen­ty volts, that I can’t
plug my table saw into a cloud, on the oth­er hand
I haven’t tried, haven’t opened a win­dow in a plane
and reached into this pos­si­ble communication,
or said to a doc­tor, how can an enlarged heart
be a bad thing, such as yes­ter­day at the hospital
when my mom’s swollen tick­er afford­ed me the chance
to inter­ject thus, I have to tell you my wife
won’t like the start of this poem, or when her grandmother
dies, or when drought kills her flow­ers, even if I tell her
it’s an evo­lu­tion to tat­ters I find lovelier
than when the breeze was lithe with the currents
of their blooms, but I may not be the best judge of beauty
or any­thing, I lick bat­ter­ies, remem­ber, it’s like electroshock
for cow­ards, like prac­tic­ing French kiss­ing lightning
or American kiss­ing thun­der, a jolt of enthu­si­asm, spritz
of wake-up sent arrow­ing to the brain, mine lives
in a cave with the lights off, is that why sor­row grows
like mold, god I have ques­tions, why don’t zealots
see how bor­ing they are, does bird song
real­ly trav­el bet­ter in morn­ing air, answers
will arrive in pieces that may not resem­ble the whole,
and one day when I shiv­er, it’ll my skin
feel­ing your eyes walk­ing across this poem


Getting there is three eighths the fun

He was trou­bled by how busy his sperm were
under the micro­scope at home. It’s like
there’s a fac­to­ry inside me
that nev­er shuts down, he said to her
at thir­ty five thou­sand feet over Kansas.
Why would you look at your sperm
at your age, she asked, pulling grass
from her pock­et and spread­ing it on the tray.
I was curi­ous if they’d resem­ble me,
if I’d want to pro­tect them
or send them to col­lege. Did you feel anything,
she asked, eat­ing the grass
one blade at a time. Afraid, he said,
there were so many and they
were so insane­ly intent
that I wor­ried they’d break out
of my tes­ti­cles and find their way
to my eyes. She touched the back of his hand
with a blade of grass, as if to bring a field
to his fear and make it fall asleep
in a breeze. Should I take the microscope
away? He thought of everything
he’d looked at, his hair, skin, blood,
spit, his feces, his toe nails. Thank you,
but I’d miss myself, he said,
which made sense to her
and she told him so. That makes sense to me,
she said, look­ing out her window
at the reli­a­bil­i­ty of Kansas — you think farm
and there is a farm, you think flat
and the Earth agrees with you — her grass
near­ly gone, a bit of bark
in her oth­er pock­et for later.


A religious experience

Long ago I found God
shuck­ing corn. I said every­one’s been look­ing for you,
he said I am every­one, I have not been look­ing for me.
I said every­one minus you has been look­ing for you,
what are you doing? Practicing, he said, for the corn
shuck­ing con­test at the State Fair: the person
who shucks the most corn in fif­teen minutes
gets a goat. But you’re God, I said, you can just make
a goat. He said it’s not the same to make a goat
when you can be giv­en a goat for doing some­thing well,
I will prove it if you do some­thing well. I looked
at the sun and did­n’t blink for thir­ty seconds
mas­ter­ful­ly with­out going blind. You did that
very well, he said, here is your goat. It was not the same
as find­ing a goat or steal­ing a goat or being giv­en a goat
for no rea­son oth­er than a man has too many goats
and you hap­pen to walk by and appear to be a person
who will accept a goat, it was bet­ter, like wak­ing up
taller or with a wing for a tongue. I said, thank you
for the goat, I won’t tell any­one where you are,
and noticed that shucked corn is kind of drab
and said that shucked corn is kind of drab. He said,
I’m sor­ry for that, I could have done bet­ter, like I did
with vol­ca­noes and zebras. And inno­cence, I said,
that remains impres­sive. You still have that, he asked?
I said yes, in small quan­ti­ties, in bright colors,
in bold actions from high wires and tree tops.
You know I do root for you, he said. I said sometimes
when the rain hides, when the wind dies, when my heart stops,
I hear you root­ing for us. Really, he said. No, I said,
but pre­tend­ing is some­thing I do very well. He said,
here is a sec­ond goat, a liar-goat to go
with your sun-star­ing goat, I am to this day
old­er and afraid and eager and a rich man, goat-wise.


Bob Hicok’s most recent col­lec­tion is Words for Empty and Words for Full (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010). This Clumsy Living (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), was 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.