“To Serve and Protect” by Bob Hicok

Bob Hicok


You end up in a particular body, you who are you
and not me, and me who am I and not you, and she, and he,
and all the theys we meet along the way. Look at her
rocking her mumbly lips back and forth like a seesaw.
That guy’s forehead is so tall it could dunk on his hair.
She’s got hips that know what time it is in Paris.
We’re insides wed to outsides without choice, shotgun
marriages all, we fall into our breaths and spend our lives
shadow-boxing our natures with our nurtures or vice versa.
I guess. I suppose. I propose nothing new: do unto others
as you’d have them do unto your mother, the sun.
Would I shoot the sun in the back seven times for the crime
of walking away, would I kneel on its neck
until it were dead, would I shoot the sun in the head?
Who are you? Are you safe? Has anyone shot at you
since breakfast? Are your shoes on backward so you’re ready
at all times to arrive to your departures and say goodbye
to your hellos? On their way to a black man’s back this week,
seven cop bullets cast their shadows on me. I ended up white
in a country and time when that’s a shield and sword combined.
If you see something, be something, if you say something,
scream something, if you scream something, scream it again,
write it down, tie it to your pillow, mail it to your congresswoman,
build a house out of noise, a cathedral of no more. There
but for the grace of fucking go we all. The soul isn’t what’s in you
but how what’s in you makes its way out: the soul is a door.
Is mine opened or closed? I sit here wondering how some of us
get it in our heads and fists and guns that we own the world
when we’re guests at best, at worst, a smattering of atoms
deluded that we matter beyond the circles of hate or love
we walk. Hello. How are you? Are you surprised every time
a mirror has the temerity to look back and ask, Are you the best
we can do? I could have been an ant, a tree, a bomb, a cloud,
a poem or a lyre buried in a field for the earth to strum.
I guess. I suppose. I have imposed on you long enough.
I wish you a vast and happy life, a sky to call your own,
that your body isn’t held against you and that you’re free
to walk a city or valley under the power of your turmoils
and joys. As I’ve tripped and stumbled, grumbled
and glided forward, I’ve not had to look over my shoulder
to see if I’m being followed by a gun or noose,
which is neither too much to ask, or to give.

from Poets Respond
August 30, 2020


Bob Hicok: “’It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back.’ I can’t recall a statement that connected the personal and social as simply and movingly as what Doc Rivers said this week. What he said and how he said it—that he chose to remove his mask before he did – has lived with me and culminated as this poem.” (web)

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