Three Poems

Bob Hicok

An air of fresh breath


I am happy, I think, then wonder

what happiness is –– a crow

taking dictation or a schooner

washed up into my living room

full of rum –– too complicated, I notice

the crow has written down –– I guess

when the ropes around my arms

and the ropes around my legs

pull with equal tension, the horses

at the other ends of the ropes

taking a pause for the carrots

that make it worthwhile

to tear me apart, I am happy

recalling kissing my wife

all over in case that is a question

to get into heaven, Did you kiss

even the ankles, even the sphincter

of your beloved –– yes, I did, but only

because the water in heaven

is clearer than the water in hell

am I kissing your hair, I told her,

every strand of it, even

the lice in your hair –– those

were the days ­­we were young

and poor and stole

the only window we owned

and hung it from nothing and called

nothing home




Course advising begins at home


At two I touched the brow

of a cadaver and wondered

if her last thoughts

had been soft


Came home at four

to a breath I loved

and told her

where my hand had been,

she drew it down

to where she smelled

like rain on my fingers


Next day, I dropped anatomy

and came home with a novel

about a woman who went

unnoticed, even by herself,

and wild flowers

to remind our eyes

not to give up




The workplace


He always has to be doing something new

with his torture and it makes the rest of us

look bad, so we never sit with him at lunch

looking out at the bay, the fishing boats

mostly gone, an old man or two

fixing a net, afraid to look up at us

on the hill, the whole town quiet,

no one speaking, not a word,

writing everything down instead, first

on paper and then, after he suggested

we gather their notes and love letters,

only on skin, and after he suggested

we gather their skin, only on air,

which he says we should take from them

now, look at him bent over his notebook,

sketching away, devising a plan

to annihilate their breath

while the rest of us eat our beans

and lie about the beauty of the flowers

and birds we raise, of the horses

we would take as our brides if we could

About The Writer

Split Lip Magazine

Bob Hicok's seventh collection is Elegy Owed (Copper Canyon, 2013). This Clumsy Living (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), was awarded the 2008 Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress and published in a German translation by Luxbooks in 2013. A recipient of six Pushcart Prizes, a Guggenheim and two NEA Fellowships, his poetry has been selected for inclusion in eight volumes of Best American Poetry.