My family and I made our annual trek to the Minnesota State
Fair last week. As is our custom, we paid tribute to the grand sow and her
litter, to king kohlrabi and his edible stem and all the other blue-ribbon
vegetables, and to Princess Kay of Milky Way and her court. (Kay is Minnesota's
state dairy princess.) Well, not Princess Kay and her court per se but to their likenesses sculpted
in butter and refrigerated in the dairy barn. As we waded down Dan Patch
Avenue, through its sweaty throngs, a voice on the public address system
floated over our heads announcing that something important was about to happen
in the swine barn.
Not only did this serve to remind me of the time I paid the PA booth at the county fair five cents to make the following announcement, “Jim Jarrells, you girlfriend is waiting for you in the pig barn,” but it made me realize that this blog is a public address system of sorts, and so, with your kind permission, I would like to make a public plea, Would whomever I last loaned Bob Hicok’s Plus Shipping please return it! No questions asked. I make this petition because I love that book and it’s out-of-print and the Internet prices are steep. This tells me I should keep better track of my books and that Hicok’s poetry is in great demand, as it should be.
The same qualities that make Bob Hicok a great poet also make many of his poems small living planets revolving around their own glorious sun. Bob’s poems demonstrate a keen intelligence, a restless yearning for meaning, heart, humor, and generosity. Years ago, immediately after reading Plus Shipping, I wrote Mr. Hicok. A few weeks later I received a telephone message thanking me and saying that he had just mailed poems to Conduit. That was my first and last message of its kind from any poet. I’m very pleased to report that since then we’ve published Bob Hicok no fewer than six times, starting with the “Big Bang” issue (#7). This week’s poem, “Wistful sounds like a brand of air freshener,” first appeared in “Holy Hootenanny” (#17).
-- William Waltz
Wistful sounds like a
brand of air freshener
I will go to Belfast, Maine, and read my poetry to crabs.
I’ll stand on a platform of some kind in the company of wind
and look at pennants waving and think of the claws
of crabs waving in the wind of the Atlantic and be sad.
It’s not that I don’t have enough sadness, but I’m always looking
for better, more aquatic or tastier sadness, for the kind
of light that comes when the sky tilts its head at dusk
and wonders, in colors we understand as language, why this all
has to end. I could doff a Bogart hat and wag a tough cigarette
between my lips, smoke muscling up from my mouth as I say, it just does,
sweetheart, it just does, but the psychology of the fedora
escapes me. There’s bread and calisthenics and lice and radar
and jars of blue stuff in stores, and maybe what I’m doing
when I cry to certain songs at seventy miles an hour, is proving
I’ve noticed that out of the nothing that could be here,
everything is. So I will go to Belfast,
what it’s like to stand beside Main Street in the winter,
I’ll put my head against the brick buildings I’m betting
live there year-round and describe the tropics to them
by having warm thoughts, and if you’d like to meet me there,
I’ll be the man in the t-shirt that has an extra sleeve
in case the third arm I need shows up, because so far,
I’ve dropped almost everything I’m desperate to hold.
-- Bob Hicok