The Design Observer Twenty

Bob Hicok | Poetry


People in rooms drinking tea, drinking wine
in the same rooms and outdoors, taking trains
and driving and planting tomatoes
and harvesting tomatoes, kissing
or watching others kiss while wanting to be kissed,
a spider living by the stove
as tigers and grizzly bears roam Ohio
being killed after their owner
opened their cages and shot himself,
people talking about childhood
while holding babies, hands behind the heads
that can't support their own weight,
eating lunch and other meals at tables,
sitting at other tables smoking or wanting to smoke,
having a beer in a room before a funeral
and a beer in the same room after the funeral,
a spider living in the window as a woman
cuts all her hair off in Nome and mails it
to her mother's chemoed head in Memphis,
people going on too long and people
letting people go on too long,
standing in a doorway meeting the lover
of their son, taking her coat, her scarf, offering tea,
liking her smile, people drinking too much
and people letting people drink too much,
making beds for them, helping them in,
people sitting beside people under trees,
trees under clouds, clouds under sun, sun under
whatever sun is under and beyond reproach.

Editor's note: "A line will take us hours maybe," wrote William Butler Yeats. "Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,/ Our stitching and unstitching has been naught." Few things take more work than the illusion of ease, which should make the tossed-off appearance of Hicok's "Life" seem impressive not just for the felt effortlessness of his lines but for the ease with which they lead you through a range of experience. How could "drinking tea" and "eating lunch" be interesting? Unlike Frank O'Hara, who'd write this sort of poem with the names of the delis he walked by on Third Avenue, Hicok plays off the contrasts between general types of experience from quotidian to chaotic to tragic without the reaction. The result is a broad retrospective on life without the false epiphanies of art, a sense of the ordered mess of our lives. -- Adam Plunkett

Posted in: Arts + Culture

Comments [1]

Sometimes Hicok can make you feel the anxiety between the bigness and smallness of life. His "After reading a biologist thinks we're through evolving" is also spectacular.

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