“Show and Tell” by Bob Hicok

Bob Hicok


Sky the color of warning. Well not red but pink,
now salmon, it innovates faster than I have words
to shape into clouds on their way to their new life
in the midst of their old. There’s no stopping,
no point at which a cloud kicks back
and smokes a cigarette, they’re all process.
Between typing “process” and looking at the plastic
dinosaur head sitting on my “Impressionist Masterpieces
Art Cube,” the pink disappeared where it had floated
like the idea of a tutu over Paris mountain
and I became bored with myself. So things change:
how exciting. Go tell the river, tell the cow
in the river. How about this: “Red sky at morning, sailors
wear condoms.” That’s more interesting.
I’ve never understood the claim by men that condoms
take the pleasure out of sex, it’s not
like you’re wearing a length of pipe.
When condoms were still the intestines of goats,
a man set stones into the ground outside his house
in Ravenna, where I’d walk with you in the tomorrow
I hope is coming this summer or next. We don’t have to talk
about condoms or clouds at all, we can talk about the deer
eating their way across draught, no rain in weeks,
no way I’m getting out of this alive, or none of that,
just the ocean, that bit of interpretative dance
on the horizon. Maybe the goal was to stand still
and whisper across 144 miles that the battle had begun
by waving flags, one signaler to another. That’s fine
for you and your Napoleonic wars, but what if wind
is who you want to go to bed with and you’re alright
with the fact that she won’t be there
even as you touch her? This ascription of gender
implies I know something
about secondary sexual characteristics
that you don’t, but I’m no doctor of change,
just a fan, same as any kid in the bleachers
cheering for the boredom of the third inning
to be interrupted by a reading of Proust. Madeleines.
How yum. This sky has cleared, by the way, of anything
but blue, and I suppose now I could pin
certain notions of clarity to the hour and feel
that I’ve honored what seems to be time
or the inclination to put language to work
putting up mirrors around the house. Even the feeling
I had at the start of this sentence has left town
already, and as another forms, part of me’s
still waving at the last as the balloon slips away.
If I could talk to fire, talk to wood
right before it burns, in the second flames
tumble across the grain, in the instant
before that second, when wood’s still wood
but the match is lit, I’d have, finally, a vocabulary
for being human, alive. This explains my pyromania
but nothing else.

from Rattle #29, Summer 2008


Bob Hicok: “I think of myself as a failed writer. There are periods of time when I’ll be happy with a given poem or a group of poems, but I, for the most part, detest my poems. I like writing. I love writing, and I believe in myself while I am writing; I feel limitless while I’m writing.”

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