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.

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Poem of the Week, by Bob Hicok

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This one goes out to all those who keep the world humming. To the servers and mechanics and plumbers and caterers and farmers and housecleaners and personal care attendants and orderlies and shift workers and convenience store clerks and landscapers and migrant workers and everyone else publicly championed and secretly scorned by those in power. We need more plumber poems, I always say to my students, we need more veteran poems and housecleaner poems and migrant worker poems. Write them. The world needs them. 

 

By Their Works

     – Bob Hicok

Who cleaned up the Last Supper? 
These would be my people. 
Maybe hung over, wanting 
desperately a better job,
standing with rags
in hand as the window
beckons with hills
of yellow grass. In Da Vinci,
the blue robed apostle
gesturing at Christ
is saying, give Him the check.
What a mess they’ve made
of their faith. My God
would put a busboy
on earth to roam
among the waiters
and remind them to share
their tips. The woman
who finished one
half eaten olive
and scooped the rest
into her pockets,
walked her tiny pride home
to children who looked
at her smile and saw
the salvation of a meal.
All that week
at work she ignored
customers who talked
of Rome and silk
and crucifixions,
though she couldn’t stop
thinking of this man
who said thank you
each time she filled
His glass.

 
 
​For more information on Bob Hicok, please click here.​