More than whispers, less than rumors

The river is high. I'd love to smoke pot 
with the river. I'd love it if rain 
sat at my table and told me what it's like 
to lick Edith Piaf's grave. I go along thinking 
I'm separate from trash day 
and the weird hairdo my cat wakes up with 
but I am of the avalanche 
as much as I am its tambourine. 
The river is crashing against my sleep 
like it took applause apart and put it back together 
as a riot of wet mouths 
adoring my ears, is over my head
when it explains string theory 
and affection to me, 
when it tells me to be the code breaker, 
not the code. What does that mean? 
Why does lyric poetry exist?
When will water open its mouth 
and tell us how to be clouds, how to rise
and morph and die and flourish and be reborn
all at the same time, all without caring
if we have food in our teeth or teeth in our eyes
or hair in our soup or a piano in our pockets,
just play the damned tune. The river is bipolar 
but has flushed its meds, I'm dead 
but someone has to finish all the cheese 
in the fridge, we're a failed species
if suction cups are important, if intelligence
isn't graded on a curve, 
but if desperation counts, if thunderstorms 
are the noise in our heads given a hall pass 
and rivers swell because orchestras 
aren't always there when we need them, well then, 
I still don't know a thing.

More by Bob Hicok

Go Greyhound

A few hours after Des Moines
the toilet overflowed.
This wasn't the adventure it sounds.

I sat with a man whose tattoos
weighed more than I did.
He played Hendrix on mouth guitar.
His Electric Ladyland lips
weren't fast enough
and if pitch and melody
are the rudiments of music,
this was just
memory, a body nostalgic
for the touch of adored sound.

Hope's a smaller thing on a bus.

You hope a forgotten smoke consorts
with lint in the pocket of last
resort to be upwind
of the human condition, that the baby
sleeps
and when this never happens,
that she cries 
with the lullaby meter of the sea.

We were swallowed by rhythm.
The ultra blond
who removed her wig and applied 
fresh loops of duct tape
to her skull,
her companion who held a mirror
and popped his dentures
in and out of place,
the boy who cut stuffing
from the seat where his mother
should have been—
there was a little more sleep 
in our thoughts, 
it was easier to yield.

To what, exactly—
the suspicion that what we watch 
watches back,
cornfields that stare at our hands,
downtowns
that hold us in their windows
through the night?

Or faith, strange to feel
in that zoo of manners.

I had drool on my shirt and breath
of the undead, a guy
dropped empty Buds on the floor
like gravity was born
to provide this service,
we were white and black trash
who'd come
in an outhouse on wheels and still

some had grown—
in touching the spirited shirts
on clotheslines,
after watching a sky of starlings
flow like cursive
over wheat—back into creatures 
capable of a wish.

As we entered Arizona
I thought I smelled the ocean,
liked the lie of this
and closed my eyes 
as shadows
puppeted against my lids. 

We brought our failures with us,
their taste, their smell.
But the kid
who threw up in the back
pushed to the window anyway,
opened it 
and let the wind clean his face,
screamed something 
I couldn't make out
but agreed with
in shape, a sound I recognized
as everything I'd come so far
to give away.

In Michael Robins's class minus one

At the desk where the boy sat, he sees the Chicago River.
It raises its hand.
It asks if metaphor should burn.
He says fire is the basis for all forms of the mouth.
He asks, why did you fill the boy with your going?
I didn't know a boy had been added to me, the river says.
Would you have given him back if you knew?
I think so, the river says, I have so many boys in me,
	I'm worn out stroking eyes looking up at the day.
Have you written a poem for us? he asks the river,
	and the river reads its poem,
	and the other students tell the river
	it sounds like a poem the boy would have written,
	that they smell the boy's cigarettes
in the poem, they feel his teeth
biting the page.
And the river asks, did this boy dream of horses?
	because I suddenly dream of horses, I suddenly dream.
They're in a circle and the river says, I've never understood
	round things, why would leaving come back
	to itself?
And a girl makes a kiss with her mouth and leans it
	against the river, and the kiss flows away
	but the river wants it back, the river makes sounds
	to go after the kiss.
And they all make sounds for the river to carry to the boy.
And the river promises to never surrender the boy's shape
	to the ocean.

Epithalamium

A bee in the field. The house on the mountain 
reveals itself to have been there through summer. 
It's not a bee but a horse eating frosted grass 
in the yawn light. Secrets, the anguish of smoke 
above the chimney as it shreds what it's learned 
of fire. The horse has moved, it's not a horse 
but a woman doing the stations of the cross 
with a dead baby in her arms. The anguish of the house 
as it reveals smoke to the mountain. A woman 
eating cold grass in Your name, shredding herself 
like fire. The woman has stopped, it's not a woman 
but smoke on its knees keeping secrets in what it reveals. 
The everything has moved, it's not everything 
but a shredding of the anguish of names. The marriage 
of light: particle to wave. Do you take? I do.

Related Poems

A Human of Mars, 36

               Arise, rice: I tend a rose: a rose and I.
               Reality is composed, uncomposed, composed: no ant for itself, beetle through compost, king/queen on the heap: reality ahop.
               Cherry trees without me and I without a kumquat tree.
               Now other things must be acknowledged: a magnificent black mare, a crow of many trades, a white and orange kitten who knows all the songs and is a first class mimic, a peach, a flea, a good credit rating, the google map app. 
               The riddle persists: who am I? 

 

Moon Seen Through Windshield

If you are anything like I am
and I have faith that you are
then you have already stepped
out of your body
and been irrevocably wounded

I was born in 1969
Chances are you were born
during a different year
It doesn’t matter if you were born
three thousand years ago

or if you are born
three thousand years from now
we share what it means to live

Maybe you have gone
back into your body

and found words
the only guide
into the known dark

We are both the living and the dead
the stuff beyond theory

Sometimes it is too much
and other times not enough

We wake to a morning fog
We wake to morning sun
We sit in a cold evening
thinking of the death of a parent

A different evening
has us thinking of our eyes
and how they crawled
out of our minds

at some point
in the evolution of the self

It is the evening of the first day
of a new year
I ask myself What have you done
The list is remarkable

This Morning, This First Poem

It is the first day of the year again, this time
in the quiet absence of Portlandia, we have
our own quiet way of entering the spaces
between the seconds of life, where time fades.
 
The fire makes a noise, inside here where ice
and snow make the earth frozen, press us
to guess what weather will do now as weather
becomes a matter of climate with no divination.
 
I listen to your napping, air going inside
to fill you with warmth from the fireplace,
air going out to let your soul teach the world
what it is to make the journey to the heart.
 
So this first poem the day a golden retriever
wallowed in the sunrise over frozen snow,
then sat up to grin the silly grin of its kind,
as if to say, the light is there if you only wait.
 
We wait together for the first man to enter
this house we are leaving for another house,
as you say it is me, I am the man to bless
the heart, its mystery of fire and the light.