“On Sticking Out like a Sore Opposable Thumb” by Bob Hicok

Bob Hicok


We give hummingbirds sugar water
in defiance of dentists’ recommendations
everywhere, and in return
for our sweetness, have been gifted a nest
of thistle and dandelion down
attached with spider silk
to a plant on the front porch
that holds a peeping chick
I’m afraid to look at
lest my giant face and eyes
scare the tiniest heart for miles.
You probably know by now
of the extinction of birds
and the growing similarity
of those that remain, who are becoming
more and more crow-
and sparrow-like, snowy egrets
soon gone, griffon vultures, says thems
that study such things. Forgive me
for making the plural pluraler,
I just want more of everything
in this time of lessening
and to keep us from erasing
the world’s green and red plumage,
its blue and wild defiance of gravity.
And forgive us, for we are big-brained
and small-wisdomed, mostly inadvertently deadly
and largely incapable
of understanding the complexity of life,
yet we have bulldozers, earth movers,
power plants, car and swizzle stick factories,
can dam or redirect rivers, cut off
the tops of mountains and drill miles
below the sea, can even make matter
explode, smash the stuff of all stuff
to bits, making us gods
in diapers, magicians who have no clue
what we’ve pulled out of the hat,
and we need help. In addition to their zip
and chittering, their air wars
at the feeder over the four fake flowers
to sip from, what I love about the hummingbirds
is also what I fear about nature,
the constant demonstration
of human inability
to find a modest niche
and nestle among the other breaths. Are we
an amazing blaze, an evolutionary
oops-a-daisy so devoted to the pursuit
of comfort and ease
that for the sake of hummingbirds
and stoats, bats and bears, waterfalls
and evergreens and everglades
we have to go, or can we change,
can we share, I ask you now,
since my Magic 8 Ball shrugged
at the question, and the river
mumbled something about being late,
and I’m lost somewhere between
the reasonableness of indoor plumbing
and air-conditioning and the insanity
of buying toilet paper on-line. Another way
to put this: how many lives
and species are single-serving puddings
worth? I know: yum. But is yum

from Poets Respond
August 7, 2022


Bob Hicok: “This poem was written in response to this article: ‘As More Bird Species Go Extinct Those That Are Left May Be More Alike.’”

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