Elegy Owed, by Bob Hicok

anlters's review against another edition

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Ode to magic

Do the one where you bring the woman
back from the dead, his host, the king, commanded,
but the magician would not.

He did the one in which he was one half
of the folk-indie duo Heartwind.

He did the one that required a volunteer tornado
from the audience.

He did the one in which the lungs of a warlord
are filled with lava.

But he would not bring the woman back from the dead.

The king wanted to cut his head off
but the queen said, Perhaps this is just a poem.

This is just a poem.

Everyone is alive as long as the poem is alive.

The king wears a crown of a thousand crows.

The queen keeps three lovers inside the castle
of her dress, the third a spare for the second,
the second a technical advisor to the first.

The magician’s tongue is nothing but the word
abracadabra and the dead woman has just written
cotton candy on her shopping list, just written
antelopes and reminded the poet
he is running out of things to say.

The queen asks him, Do the one in which your heart
is folded over and pounded with moonlight,
in which you claim to miss everything —
I like how big your arms are in that one,
your throat the size of the universe
before silence gets the last word.

Oh, that one, the poet says, is this one,
is the only one.

Listen to it sound like shucked corn,
like a single blade of grass eating sun,
like any train or noisemaker or hallelujah
that will keep this line from being
the last line, and this line
but not the coming line, the hush,
the crush it is.
- p.24


Blue prints

Up and up, the mountain, but suddenly a flat spot
exactly the size of the house they would build,
and when they went to dig for the foundation, the foundation
appeared, just as the beams for the floor, as they started
to set them in place, revealed they had always been there,

it was like coming into the room to find your diary
writing itself, she told the interviewer, who wanted to talk
about her paintings but she kept coming back to the house,
including the sky above the house, how it resembled
her childhood, forgetting how to rain
when it wasn’t raining, remembering blue
just when she needed to be startled most, don’t you think

it odd that my life has always had just enough space
for my life, she asked the man’s recorder
as much as the man, hoping the recorder
would consider the question and get back to her, then you moved
to Madrid, the interviewer was saying, and started painting
your invisible landscapes, I remember the first window

we lifted into place, she replied, that the view of the valley
it would hold was already in the glass when we cut the cardboard box
away, we just lined them up, the premonition
with the day, he had twenty more questions

but crossed them off, I have always wanted to build a room
around a painting, he said, Yes, she replied, A painting
hanging in space, he added, A painting of a woman
adjusting a wall to suit a painting, she said, Like how the universe
began, he suggested, Did it begin, she wondered, is that
what this is?
- p.57


The order of things

Then I stopped hearing from you. Then I thought
I was Beethoven’s cochlear implant. Then I listened
to deafness. Then I tacked a whisper
to the bulletin board. Then I liked dandelions
best in their Afro stage. Then a breeze
held their soft beauty for ransom. Then no one
throws a Molotov cocktail better
than a Buddhist monk. Then the abstractions
built a tree fort. Then I stopped hearing from you.
Then I stared at my life with the back of my head.
Then an earthquake somewhere every day.
Then I felt as foolish as a flip-flop
alone on a beach. Then as a beach
alone with a sea. Then as a sea
repeating itself to the moon. Then I stopped hearing
from the moon. Then I waved. Then I threw myself
into the work of throwing myself
as far as I can. Then I picked myself up
and wondered how many of us
get around this way. Then I carried
the infinity. Then I buried the phone.
Then the ground rang. Then I answered the ground.
Then the dial tone of dirt. Then I sat on a boulder
not hearing from you. Then I did jumping jacks
not hearing from you. Then I felt up silence. Then silence
and I went all the way.
- p.61

arachne_reads's review against another edition

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Hicok pulls all of the emotion into his poems with his juxtapositions of this thing and that thing. His poems are full of thingfulness. You can touch them. You can lick them. They taste all the ways you'd expect: sweet and bitter and salty and often like ink on paper.

In all honesty, I think Hicok is my favorite poet, and they way he takes images and lays them one next to another evoking all of the familiar losses I've experienced in my life rather astounds me.

I recommend taking this volume one poem at a time. Letting each one sit on your tongue, or against the drum of your brain's ear, for at least a little bit before taking in the next.