Friday, May 11, 2007
Bob Hicok: (I Can Relate)
O my pa-pa
by Bob Hicok
Our fathers have formed a poetry workshop.
They sit in a circle of disappointment over our fastballs
and wives. We thought they didn't read our stuff,
whole anthologies of poems that begin, My father never,
or those that end, and he was silent as a carp,
or those with middles which, if you think
of the right side as a sketch, look like a paunch
of beer and worry, but secretly, with flashlights
in the woods, they've read every word and noticed
that our nine happy poems have balloons and sex
and giraffes inside, but not one dad waving hello
from the top of a hill at dusk. Theirs
is the revenge school of poetry, with titles like
"My Yellow Sheet Lad" and "Given Your Mother's Taste
for Vodka, I'm Pretty Sure You're Not Mine."
They're not trying to make the poems better
so much as sharper or louder, more like a fishhook
or electrocution, as a group
they overcome their individual senilities,
their complete distaste for language, how cloying
it is, how like tears it can be, and remember
every mention of their long hours at the office
or how tired they were when they came home,
when they were dragged through the door
by their shadows. I don't know why it's so hard
to write a simple and kind poem to my father, who worked,
not like a dog, dogs sleep most of the day in a ball
of wanting to chase something, but like a man, a man
with seven kids and a house to feed, whose absence
was his presence, his present, the Cheerios,
the PF Flyers, who taught me things about trees,
that they're the most intricate version of standing up,
who built a grandfather clock with me so I would know
that time is a constructed thing, a passing, ticking fancy.
A bomb. A bomb that'll go off soon for him, for me,
and I notice in our fathers' poems a reciprocal dwelling
on absence, that they wonder why we disappeared
as soon as we got our licenses, why we wanted
the rocket cars, as if running away from them
to kiss girls who looked like mirrors of our mothers
wasn't fast enough, and it turns out they did
start to say something, to form the words hey
or stay, but we'd turned into a door full of sun,
into the burning leave, and were gone
before it came to them that it was all right
to shout, that they should have knocked us down
with a hand on our shoulders, that they too are mystified
by the distance men need in their love.
*from POETRY - May 2007
Bob Hicok's poetry has appeared in such magazines as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and Poetry. He is the author of Animal Soul, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, He is also the author of The Legend of Light , which won the 1995 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry and was an ALA Booklist Notable Book of the Year.
Question: When you meet people at parties who don't know you and they ask you what you do, do you say "I'm a poet"? Why or why not?
Bob Hicok: Usually not. Often I'll say, I'm the idiot standing in front of you who has nothing to say, or, nice shoes, which is the equivalent but shorter. Faces do a funny little dance when you say you're a poet, unless you're telling another poet. It's almost like saying, I have eczema. I see no reason to elicit discomfort.