Bob Hicok









A group of people look into the well. I lean over too,

we stare at each other upside down. There's a man

mannequin in the water. One of the people says

we should rescue him with a spear gun and rope, another

that we should ask a woman mannequin to make the first

feel lonely and capable of flight. But what if he's gay,

someone asks. I remind them of the oppressive condition

in which our hero lives, being, not even wood,

but a plastic designed to keep clothes from snagging.

As is often the case, we soon resent his misery,

lean back in the short grass and talk of angora sweaters

we've loved, of the expression mannequins perfect,

the one that says, my smile, I owe my smile to this shade

of burgundy. When I wake, the man mannequin

stands above me, dripping, his smooth crotch shining

in moonlight. It occurs to me we may have ruined

his privacy, and I want to sing him a song that says

how sorry I am, but the only sounds that come to mind

are of two cars smashing on the highway, and I wake

the man beside me, and we run head first at each other

to sing this song.








My suggestion: think big.

If you'd like vaginas in your hands, ask.

You don't need to file

an environmental impact statement.


All I want for Christmas

is an oculus in my head, my brain

touched by sunlight.


Simply bore a hole in my skull,

which is called trepanning,

and I'll resemble the Pantheon in Rome.

The Pantheon's where the gods lived,

the oculus how they came and went,

though they mostly came.


Oculus means eye, I'd like a third eye

in my head, elbow in my knee, tongue

in every finger. I never


got to sit on Santa's lap.

Did you know there are four hundred

and seventy thousand Santas, all of them

picking up their suits about now

from dry cleaners, who use chemicals

thought to make us sterile.

They give away calendars too, I like


to bury mine day by day

with an X in the little boxes,

practice coffins,

and at the end of the year,

cut out the pictures

of rivers and sunsets and take them

to rivers and sunsets

and say, this is what you look like,


you look like July, like November,

and then I fasten the sunset to the sunset

with a magnet shaped like a banana,

and the river licks itself off and leaves.








She explained, when her husband walked away,

that he was convinced his head was a balloon.

We'd had a lovely chat about the flat tax

and how every wall deserves a window, an idea

that had her tapping her cigarette too soon,

when there was no ash, against the ashtray

I was thinking of stealing. I liked them

as I like the bookends I own that were separated

at birth -- one a simple metal job and one

a replica of the Flat Iron carved from marble --

and we drank hard and fast to make it aerobic.

When it was her turn to pee, the body's excuse

for reading graffitti --


Life is like trying to hang a painting of the sky

to the sky


My boyfriend curves to the right but votes straight



-- he said, my wife thinks I'm holding my hands

against the sides of my head but I'm really

holding my head between my hands. It's a matter

of perspective, he went on, leaning forward

to take his shot glass in his mouth.

When she came back, we realized not one of us

knew the Canadian National Anthem,

though we all loved the start. His idea

was to form a club called The Perfect Strangers,

meetings to be held the first whenever of the month,

in the bar you happen to be in when it occurs to you

you don't need to be alone. We shared

every other digit of our phone numbers

and I watched them skip away,

his head on a string and she letting go.









I've been trying to think of things that sound like Ethel Merman

in a bread box. Ethel Merman in a bread box is of course

choice #1, my father's Jacobson lawn mower is next,

then there's a blender full of keys on frappé, a bag

of one hundred thousand molars dragged behind a car, and now

I wonder why I wonder this. I guess it's because

I've never been, or even tried to be, a Minotaur.

This refusal to embody the lives of others

makes me feel lonely, which brings to mind

large sounds coming from large bodies in large halls,

and this, if you look her up, is the definition

of Ethel Merman. I've known a few singers who've done well

locally, they have gigs, fans, they own microphones

and water their voices, one wears a red scarf

around his throat like it's a Christmas tree. They say

they feel abandoned when the night ends, when the crowd

breaks into particles, into dust, I've imagined this grief

as skin made of butterflies when the butterflies leave.

There is no business like show business, nothing like the voice

reaching out, nothing I can do except listen, and scream,

and every morning, when I put bread to my ear, I hear fields

coming closer, wind walking fingertip by fingertip

across the wheat, singing nothing, nothing but eat.










What do you think of the bible?


-I own one or two, don't read them, I enjoy

turning the pages, the paper thin as slices

of garlic.


Garlic slices are thicker than that.


-Slices of cloud.


Though it would be cool, cooking with the bible.

When someone asked you, how's the spaghetti, you could say,

needs more bible.


-I could say that anyway.


But you don't.


-Nor dolphin toothpicks or advanced

geothermal calisthenics. Why do you ask about the bible?


I'm trying to inject one into my arm.


-So the bookshelves didn't work out?


Different kind of hobby. It tickles so far, going in.


-I once snorted the Bhagavad Gita.


So you understand. It's really pretty here,

you should come up soon, bring Karen and the kids.


-I don't know anyone named Karen.


Exactly. I'm thinking ahead.


-Am I a good father?


Mostly. Though one night, when little Toby ran around

the house with a crayon in each hand, marking up the walls,

playing "siren siren, house on fire," you loaded your fist

and cocked your arm.


-I wanted to pop the little sucker.


But you didn't.


-I didn't.


Because he doesn't exist.


-Now you're breaking my heart.


I was calling to tell you about a bird I saw this morning.

It must have been about eight feet long, mostly Christmas tree

green, though it had a red band around its neck and four

yellow spots on its tail, which was split in two, and it made

a sound like a battery being slipped into a camera, and flew

seven and a half times around the house, its eyes

had goldfish inside, I used the binoculars, I love

those binoculars, I go everywhere with them, I even make love

while staring through them at Louise, she scares

the hell out of me, her nose is a tunnel for a train,

it was a pretty bird.


-Do you ever regret not being someone else?


You mean someone abnormally fragrant, someone who owns

a tri-corn hat, someone who trains rats to go into buildings

and look for survivors, someone with an inner-ear dilemma?


-I was thinking of this woman I see out in a field.

She never moves, the grass grows around her, gets mowed,

crows have these conversations with her hair, I think

her face is a creature of wind. When I walk out

to talk to her, she isn't there, but as soon as I leave

the field, and turn, she's back.


And you'd like to be her?


-I'd like to be the spot between her vagina and her thigh.


There are two of those, which one do you want to be?


-You choose.


The one least kissed.