Right now, I’m sitting in a hotel in suburban Denver. The lights in the room are fluorescent, which makes my skin appear almost gangrene. There is a painting of a bouquet on the wall. Nothing good’s on TV. I could be anywhere in America.
I suppose this is one of the pleasures of hotels–losing one’s bearings. All the beige carpet, beige curtains, the dull drone of the ice machine, the distant chime of the elevator.
I’m lying on the bed reading Bob Hicok to bring me back to earth. Have you read him? He’s a loquacious, lively poet who takes me by the hand and says, “Let’s talk about French kissing and grammar and death in the span of a couple dozen lines, okay?”
The book I’m reading of Hicok’s is This Clumsy Living (2007, University of Pittsburgh Press) and my favorite poem so far is “Duh.” I want to share it with you. The poem, full of non-sequiturs, in a roundabout way discusses family relationships, death, love, and primal desire. I’m always a fan of a poem that tries to tackle so much and somehow, astonishingly, pulls it off.
My father is silent and distant.
The moon is up though sometimes
to the side which is also called
over there. Coffee is better brewed
than eaten straight from the can.
When someone is dying
we should unpack the clever phrase
I am sorry. Wrenches
the wrong size should be distracted
until the right bolt arrives.
Inside your head is a map
of your house and inside that map
is where you actually live.
People doing jumping jacks
look like they’re trying
to start a fire by rubbing
the sticks of their body
together. Vague nomenclature
is not the correct response
to thank you. It’s surprising
that pencils and erasers get along
as well as they do. When dogs meet
it’s the scent gland not anus
they sniff. There’s the conviction
in every head that someone else
is happy. This is why we drool
from jets at green rectangles
of earth, why when we kiss
we push hard to reach the pillow
of the tongue. If we swapped
mistakes they might fit neatly
and with purpose into our lives.
I’ll lend you the day I locked
my keys in my mouth
if you give me the night
you got drunk and bought
a round of flowers for the house.
Whatever my father wants me
to know he tells my mother
who tells me. This reminds me
that if I put my ear to the ground
I’ll hear the stampede
of dirt no cowboy can keep
from rolling over my head one day.