The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Bob Hicok



This kid had never seen the ocean,
I'd never seen a kid seeing the ocean
for the first time, and the ocean
had never been this close to Main Street,
according to the woman behind the desk
at the hotel, where the night before,
a moth landed on my shoulder, along with the moon.
He told us he was from up north,
then pointed at a man and woman fighting
so far away, we couldn't hear what they were saying
while their arms were furious with the air.
It's so big, he said.
The biggest thing in the world
that isn't the world, I thought
would be a way to put it, but just nodded.
By standing still next to his standing still
and my wife's, I was hoping
we'd build a little shelter for him,
a moment he could hold in the car
during the long drive with his untamed parents
and think, It was nice,
listening to the radio of the ocean
with those people.
But that's the kind of thought
I'd have in a poem, not what a kid would think
at all. And it was rude
to tell the moth it was a symbol of death.
It reminded me of snowflakes on my shoulder,
another kind of softness
that doesn't last, except as the desire
to carry someone barefoot over broken glass.



Bob Hicok

Waiting is the hardest part of waiting


I like the way your nose wrinkles
when you confuse a coping saw
for a coping mechanism and cut a duck

out of balsa to float on the lake and keep
the mallard with one wing company
badly, in that your duck has the shape

and soul of a potato. Though who cares
if you had shop or not,
if the potato-duck catches on

as a species -- you're to be cheered
for making a mess in the garage
while waiting for the results of the test

that'll answer the big question, is there a riot
in your cells? Which if there is,
I'm afraid of the saws they'll turn on you,

the masked ones who cut and gut, cut and run,
leaving you aching and waiting to know
if the cancer's gone or just kicked a bit

in the balls. Which has no bearing
whatsoever on the duck, the duck stuck
when the others leave

with us, who don't even have the one wing
to suggest the other wing
we also don't have, if you get my meaning,

let me know, because I'm lost.



Bob Hicok

Je suis tres delicate


I'm always just one limping bunny away
from holding my mother's hand
in the hospital, afraid to look up,
into the bed, that the rest of her
has floated away, and even when she was back
at home, stirring things in the silver bowl
that sang a silver song, the bowl that shined
in the way I wanted to be a bright boy
raising his hand at school, I looked at her
from then on as a mom-shaped cloud
any serious wind would disperse. A man of science
such as myself should know we're not clouds
but cicada music played at a furious pace,
but these patterns are set early on
and we clop along, like horses in fields
of nails. Hello. My name is Bob. My address
is sewn on the bottom of my tongue.
I'm not supposed to talk to strangers,
so I never tell myself the truth. I'm six now
and was six ten years ago and will be buried
six feet under as a six year old boy
should be -- with a blanky
and a shotgun by his side. And now
I have to leave the comfort
of this little room I've just made
to thrash among the rest of the kids
and their mortgages, rest of the brats
and their high-balls and sitting furiously
cut-off in traffic, not knowing
how to get their blue crayon back
from the kid who just grabbed it
to make a sky appear out of nothing
but the desire for sky.



Bob Hicok



Now that cell phones
come with a conscience,

we know that the moment
he gave in, the second the wind

left his body and he accepted
the orthodoxy of your fist,

was nineteen punches
before you quit. Beside

your smile, another fact
the video makes clear:

equality means either
you stop beating

black jay walkers or start
beating me.




BOB HICOK's left shoe refuses to acknowledge his right. Amid this impasse, he has completed a book called Hold, to be published by Copper Canyon in 2018. 



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