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Authors: Bob Hicok

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BOOK: Elegy Owed
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She ran backward on a ship sailing forward

toward a man running west on a world

spinning east, waving at her

running out of ship waving at him

running out of her, until finally

they were so far apart, it was expedient

to write a novel in which a woman

tears pages from her notebook and drifts them

on the sea, which reads the story aloud

to the moon as it carries the words

to the wrong man, who dresses himself

in the novel and walks the countryside,

until one day, the right man

finds the wrong man dying

by the side of the road, and offers him

water, and reads the wrong man's chest

and arms and thighs, the word
sun

in her handwriting casting a shadow

of the word
tree

A country mapped with invisible ink

Like we are the hole that grows in poor, unmendable

nothing: we blind needles: we unmoored threads:

like feeling I'm the enaction of a waterfall by my tongue

upon your body, as when a boat is brought to the edge

of exile and a hand extends to a hand or a tree

beseeches with its shadeshawl: however born,

there is reaching, we agree the wind smelled of copper

one day, a passport the next: like how to escape

my brain's slum of words, the ghetto of the said,

while adoring there the rocks, the teacups,

if half of me is a Molotov cocktail and half

the inflection of loss and half a genuflection

to breath: like wondering if this extra half

is a country mapped with invisible ink:

like how windows ask to come along with the going

and preside over the staying, and I look at them

with all the love, all the shatter I can muster:

shards cutting me when I try to put the sky,

the distance back together: boredom cutting me

deeper when I don't: like searching for a man

in a burning house and finding a piano as echo flees:

a whetstone still warm from the blade: sheets pressed

with brainfolds of sleep: a whisper from the bathroom

of running water: but no body: and I carry

these things to safety that are not the man: the piano

in my arms, running water in my mouth, the vespers

of sleep, the knife, so like a wing, like flight:

and say of him, that was me, to the ashes, the char:

and sift the memory of flames for their sorrow,

holding smoke to the mirror interested only

in solid dreams: like it will finally see

what isn't there and give it my face, this presence

of absence I have tried and tried not to be

Elegy to unnamed sources

Attempts to say a thing:

Took a day off from breathing

to see if that would be like talking to you.

I've tasted your ashes twice, once today,

once tomorrow.

I study a dead tree that has a living shadow

made of God and crow shit, it resembles winter

all summer, what a stark easel the sky

never asked to be.

If you see a man chopping down wind,

it's me or someone who resembles me, with calluses

and an untied anchor falling through the ocean of his body.

A critique of the attempts to say a thing:

Grief is punch-drunk

stupid, that's why we get along, we have the same

empty IQ, the same silhouette of a scarecrow

challenging lightning to a duel.

A final attempt to say a thing:

It was the worst decision of my life, to hold

your last breath, to say anything out loud, anything

in quiet, I should have left it to the professional stabbers

in white, the professional pokers in squeaky shoes,

I had no business trying to see you leave, see death

arrive, I owe you an apology, an elegy, I owe you

the drift of memory, the praise of everything,

of saying it was the best decision of my life,

to hold you full, hold you empty, & live

as the only bond between the two

The missing

They go to the woods, the town, the entire town

looking for a girl but finding

a different girl with her own

missing eyes, her own beetle

in her mouth. They circle, the town,

the entire town, this wrong girl

whose splintered repose

appears to be running

against the side of the Earth,

who makes them imagine

this same becoming

for the right girl. We should lift her,

one is thinking, bury her

under the modesty of leaves, another,

and another

wants to burn the woods, shoot the crows,

poison the coyotes, and beneath

those thoughts, wants to touch

the wrong girl, reach

where she is open, into death,

as some would rest their heads

between the teeth of a lion. They turn,

the town, the entire town,

to where the priest

considers that the closest

he's come to a miracle

is when he backed out of a room,

the woman naked

on a bed, smiling, his pants

undone, his life

pointing where it had never been.

He sees them expecting him

to bring God into the moment

and wants to tell them,
God is here,

God was here the whole time,

but instead, makes the sign of the cross

and asks them to pray silently

for the girl. Then it's dark

but no one leaves, then it's light

and they've grown accustomed

to the habits of ants, no one

wants to let the wrong girl go,

who is more of a scrap

every moment, as if they know

it's not their mourning

they tend but the mourning

of those from another town. Where

the right girl might be alive

in a kitchen, reminding the woman

who asks the right girl

if she knows her phone number,

of her own daughter's

pride of knowledge, her slow pleasure

in repeating seven digits, in holding

what is not real and making it

seem so, as flesh does,

until it does not.

Some recent weather

The rain is pregnant with a shape

exactly like you, late to tell your lover

it's over, who is late to tell you

he never loved you, also in the rain,

as wet as a goat in the rain or a statue

of rain in the rain, if there is one,

would have epaulets of rain in the rain

and be made of bronze or toffee, you are running

now in the rain, your version

of the human spirit, your very private instance

of converting sunlight when available

into vitamin D, for the energy

to believe we are more than energy, hoping

that you are wrong in the rain,

that it will never be over, as he

is hoping that he always loved you

in the rain, three blocks, two blocks, one block

to go and there he is, more lickable

than prophecy, like dew has taken human form

and put on a yellow shirt and shaved

in the rain, the rain so hard

you fuck in the rain and no one notices, the rain

fuck-shaped where you are fucking, an animal

with its mouth to your ear, and you

an animal with your mouth to its ear, everyone

on equal footing in the rain, the rain

speaking to your panting with its panting, the rain

washing away the rain

Born again

One day I was introduced to a bed

in which a woman was born, gave birth, and died.

The woman who introduced me to the bed

was the granddaughter of the woman

who was born in the bed and never lived

in another house.

Being a child of wind, I whispered

in the company of so much permanence.

The woman found my reverence ridiculous.

I knew this because she took off her clothes

and got on the bed as a way of asking me

to join her in making the bed a living bed.

It was in that bed that the woman told me

she tried to kill herself at seventeen.

Lots of Valium under a tree with horses nearby

ignoring her to eat.

This is my second life,
she said,
the one I got

for not knowing more about drugs, for being shy

when it came to my father's shotgun

in my mouth.

By then, she'd lived a hundred years

in dog years beyond when she'd wanted to die.

When I told her this, she said,
Woof.

The bed squeaked each time we turned

or breathed our bodies into each other.

I keep asking myself if this story is true.

I seem to believe it is, seem to admire time

and making love on top of musical springs

and the world every day for not killing itself,

not exploding or burning down

as it might reasonably want to.

And the woman?

I seem to know her or contain her or think

the valley in which I live

would resemble her if someone had the language

to convince it to rise and be a woman

wearing a flowered dress.

Women are more likely to wear gardens

than men, to be valleys, to hold time

in their bodies and take us

inside what is passing

as it passes, what is arriving

as we leave.

And the man?

I seem to be him or want him

to be the feeling that stars

would look down on us and ask

What are you going through

if only they had mouths.

Scarecrow overhears himself thinking

I love crows, so midnight at noon. Me,

a suit stuck on sticks

that no longer suits your life. As if this aways

who you are, your self-imposed

supposes: suppose this is it — this field,

this light? What does, anyway, fill you

if not sun up or down, if not harvest,

yield? We should switch, I'll hop off

and gimp around, you'll hang

among scavengers for company,

for keeps, your straw-thoughts pecked

by wind. Are you me alive or am I you

dead? I lied: I hold my arms wide

not to shoo but greet, to say

to plunder,
Feel free, dig in.

Elegy's

almost eulogy, is nearly dearly

beloved, I am un-gathered here

where you are not, I confess

I obsess, repeat myself to feel

this speaking's more than the creaking

of a pew in an empty church, where

as a tyke, surrounded by an absence

I was priestly asked to think of

as love, I couldn't wrap my mind

around such a zilch, whereas you

I touch and smell in the rough flesh

of memory, the word sonically

wants to be
remember me,
in my head

at least, you thrive some, you die some

daily in this weird-ass and misty mix

of ghost and gone, to which

I address what pretends to be

litany but is no more

evolved than this stuck

list: come back, come home

Desire

Having assumed it's none of my business

that our cats sniff each other's asses

while I prepare their breakfast, I turn now

to the window and resume the relationship

I've had with two horses who may be

two different horses since I fell in love

with shapes moving horse-like

in the distance eight years ago. I watched

one dusk in Michigan a horse mount

and conspire with another to make

yet a third, the mounted horse

completely not stopping eating

while the other quickly did his thing,

which resembled my thing in how it held on to

and cherished blood, as if for a while

it were a heart. I didn't expect that thought

but there it is, the dick-heart, and weirdly,

when I put their food down, the cats usually

go look at birds, as if to remind themselves

what the real life is

and that it isn't this one, though for me,

this has been completely authentic

from day one, such that if you gathered

all of my desires in a bag, I would marvel

at the size and hunger of the bag

and want that too, and we could talk

well into the night about how to slip the bag

holding everything into the bag

holding everything without dropping a thing,

like where else could you fit the sky

but the sky?

Take care

Nuclear missiles are rusting in their silo sleep,

gaskets are failing, firing mechanisms are going bad

but the engineers who designed them are retired

and records weren't kept, we couldn't make the missiles

today if we wanted to, and the thousands we have

might work if fired but might not, or leak, or go off

because they feel like it,
Why are we talking

about anything else,
I said to the waiter when he asked

if we had any questions. He cried and sat on one

of the two extra chairs at our table, one of the two spots

for emergency seating that were in our control,

then a second waiter came up and wondered aloud

if we were ready to order, I asked to hear

real silence, not the kind with my breath inside it,

my wife wanted the moon to make up its mind, to be full

or empty but nothing in between, our new friend

the first waiter wanted the second waiter

to make us take it all back, to tell him the missiles

were fine, that we knew how to repair death

on the magnificent scale of the atom.
That's the least

we can do,
I told the second waiter,
look at how

we've wounded his face, it suggests a painting

by Francis Bacon that's been chewed on by a dog.

So we told our new friend the first waiter

that we were circus people, that we lie about everything —

there is no Strongest Man on Earth, The Lion Woman

has more ocelot in her than lion — he smiled, the world

had been healed, and he rose, and served his country

beautifully that night, bringing it sustenance

over and over on plates large enough to hold a human head.

BOOK: Elegy Owed
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