Poem of the Week, by Bob Hicok

IMG_8741Yesterday I had a hitch installed on the back of my car. The U-Haul installation place was off a busy frontage road, its entrance blocked by men who came running up to my car, masks askew, shouting at me in Spanish, a language I (still) don’t speak, holding up fingers —one? two? and pushing each other: Me! Me! No, me! 

Finally I understood. This was a U-Haul place full of moving trucks for rent. They were asking did I need help moving, and how many men did I need? I shook my head, tried to smile, tried to explain I was only there for a hitch, tried again to smile. The look in their eyes told me they didn’t understand, told me they were just this side of desperate, told me they’d do anything for work. 

 

Calling Him Back from Layoff, by Bob Hicok

I called a man today. After he said
hello and I said hello came a pause
during which it would have been

confusing to say hello again so I said
how are you doing and guess what, he said
fine and wondered aloud how I was

and it turns out I’m OK. He
was on the couch watching cars
painted with ads for Budweiser follow cars

painted with ads for Tide around an oval
that’s a metaphor for life because
most of us run out of gas and settle

for getting drunk in the stands
and shouting at someone in a t-shirt
we want kraut on our dog. I said

he could have his job back and during
the pause that followed his whiskers
scrubbed the mouthpiece clean

and his breath passed in and out
in the tidal fashion popular
with mammals until he broke through

with the words how soon thank you
ohmyGod which crossed his lips and drove
through the wires on the backs of ions

as one long word as one hard prayer
of relief meant to be heard
by the sky. When he began to cry I tried

with the shape of my silence to say
I understood but each confession
of fear and poverty was more awkward

than what you learn in the shower.
After he hung up I went outside and sat
with one hand in the bower of the other

and thought if I turn my head to the left
it changes the song of the oriole
and if I give a job to one stomach other

forks are naked and if tonight a steak
sizzles in his kitchen do the seven
other people staring at their phones

hear?

 

 

For more information on Bob Hicok, please click here.

To listen to Words by Winter, my new poem and storytelling podcast, click here

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6 comments

  1. Jerald Newtapid · May 16, 2020

    👏👏👏 beautiful I loved it

    Liked by 1 person

    • alisonmcghee · May 16, 2020

      I’m glad. He’s an incredible poet.

      Like

  2. April Halprin Wayland · May 17, 2020

    Omg. I read the poem, then read it again. I turn my head sideways. With these words, with this alignment, he sets the scene, holds the telephone up to my ear. I hear the voice at the other end break, smell that sizzling steak. How does he do that? How?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. alisonmcghee · May 17, 2020

    The man’s a magician, isn’t he? I feel the same way about this poem and many of his poems. XO

    Like

  4. Kas Vargo · May 18, 2020

    Thanks for this poem. I haven’t been able to cry in a few years. This has me teary eyed. It’s good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • alisonmcghee · May 18, 2020

      I’m glad to hear this, Kas. I feel the same way about this poem. As for the tears, I hope they helped. . . XO

      Like

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