Tuesday, November 17, 2009



A few hours after Des Moines

the toilet overflowed.

This wasn't the adventure it sounds.

I sat with a man whose tattoos

weighed more than I did.

He played Hendrix on mouth guitar.

His Electric Ladyland lips

weren't fast enough

and if pitch and melody

are the rudiments of music,

this was just

memory, a body nostalgic

for the touch of adored sound.

Hope's a smaller thing on a bus.

You hope a forgotten smoke consorts

with lint in the pocket of last

resort to be upwind

of the human condition, that the baby


and when this never happens,

that she cries

with the lullaby meter of the sea.

We were swallowed by rhythm.

The ultra blond

who removed her wig and applied

fresh loops of duct tape

to her skull,

her companion who held a mirror

and popped his dentures

in and out of place,

the boy who cut stuffing

from the seat where his mother

should have been--

there was a little more sleep

in our thoughts,

it was easier to yield.

To what, exactly--

the suspicion that what we watch

watches back,

cornfields that stare at our hands,


that hold us in their windows

through the night?

Or faith, strange to feel

in that zoo of manners.

I had drool on my shirt and breath

of the undead, a guy

dropped empty Buds on the floor

like gravity was born

to provide this service,

we were white and black trash

who'd come

in an outhouse on wheels and still

some had grown--

in touching the spirited shirts

on clotheslines,

after watching a sky of starlings

flow like cursive

over wheat--back into creatures

capable of a wish.

As we entered Arizona

I thought I smelled the ocean,

liked the lie of this

and closed my eyes

as shadows

puppeted against my lids.

We brought our failures with us,

their taste, their smell.

But the kid

who threw up in the back

pushed to the window anyway,

opened it

and let the wind clean his face,

screamed something

I couldn't make out

but agreed with

in shape, a sound I recognized

as everything I'd come so far

to give away.

-Bob Hicok

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