Published on Academy of American Poets (

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.


Copyright © 2019 by Bob Hicok. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 11, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“On my desk I keep a rusted railroad spike. I picked it up walking to school the same day wings started growing from my back. My mother sat me down that morning and explained that my father was a hawk. Unsure if I was of Earth or sky, the railroad spike was heavy and carrying it seemed to answer the question for a while. As my wings grew, the principle told me I had to decide if I was a boy or a bird. I hadn't noticed before that some people need everyone to be the same, and realized I could tell him I was a boy but go on being a boy and a bird. The railroad spike is dented where it was repeatedly struck by a hammer. While writing, I often look at it to remind myself that my favorite things are rusty and beaten. Just look in the mirror.”
Bob Hicok


Bob Hicok

Bob Hicok was born in 1960. His poetry collection This Clumsy Living (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007) was awarded the 2008 Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress. 

Date Published: 2019-07-11

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