“A Braid of Unknowing I Tie Before You” by Bob Hicok

Bob Hicok


Eight minutes, almost nine. I’ve been seeing a star
to the east in the morning. It’ll be hard
not to give four or five students Ds this semester.
Are optimists fools? For eight minutes, almost nine,
one man knelt on another man’s neck. A star or planet,
I don’t know. Many have stopped turning in poems
or coming to class, more than ever in my twenty years
of teaching, during this third semester of COVID.
Obviously there are more problems than solutions,
more shit than Shinola. A white cop kneeling
on a black man’s neck. I’ve been meaning to ask the internet
what the light is so I can refer to it in the first person,
Dear Vega, Dear Saturn, when I’m grateful for company
from so far away. They expected to be going to parties
and football games, to be drinking and dropping acid,
to be rubbing against space and time, but the friction
of bodies and growing older, into adults,
has been replaced by fear of breathing
in the wrong place at the wrong time.
To think we can change or get better at changing
our oil or not clear-cutting forests or listening
to opinions we don’t hold or sharing our wealth
is insane in an evidence-based system of analysis,
if you look at the data, if I remember back
to five minutes ago when I scanned the headlines
and Chicken Little was right: the sky is falling.
How is it not murder, clearly and simply murder
to kneel on a man’s neck for eight minutes, almost nine,
and what happens, what rot overtakes our hearts
when we can’t admit this, can’t white admit to black,
old to young, sane to the crazy world in which one man
tries to justify kneeling on another man’s neck
after subdued, after compliant, after hearing him
call for mama and say sixteen times that he can’t breathe,
that this is wrong, so obviously and clearly immoral
that we’ll step from this cruelty in unison
and cast it in steel and touch it every day
for the rest of our lives to remind ourselves
of what we’ll never do again. Dear Vega, Dear Saturn,
tell me something I don’t know about the universe,
that as it grows we grow, that as light leaves us
more arrives, that entropy is actually patience
in disguise, that love is the only way to explain
why atoms cling to each other and something more than the zero
exists. Is it kind to set aside their failures,
what they haven’t done or said, the stones they’ve channeled
with their silences in class, and how do we ask something
of each other, or give, in ways that lift and teach,
how can we lay this period of time on a blanket
and wrap it, roll it in softness and concern
and make our way to the other side? Optimism
is the source of karaoke, light bulbs, mosh pits, kissing
and fucking and birth and thinking a man’s pointless death
can have a point, can be a fulcrum or lever or both.
How do you a lift a world already afloat in space
or convince people that we’re surfers and gliders
called to be animals of grace, that we cling to speed
and grand motions and need each other to hang on?
I am lost in every way except my certainty
that the only true mirror is each and every other face.
Eight minutes, almost nine. It’ll be hard not to sit
in an actual room with their actual eagerness
to overcome gravity and time. Optimists are oceans
and skies at heart. A star or planet touching me with light
I want to deserve.

from Poets Respond
April 4, 2021


Bob Hicok: “Everything.”

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