Today's poem is by Bob Hicok

Shopping at the ocean

Trying to save the bug she killed the bug
and I won't call you dumb ass by saying
there's a lesson in this. There was a smear
in this and driving and some music
from our past that captured our hands
and heads with its embarrassing sweetness.
We were traveling toward shoes or spoons
or rice in white boxes, always we are buying
something, I haven't made anything useful
since I filled construction paper
with a red sky and green sun
and then unrolled my body into a nap. She
was talking and fortunately I watched
her lips form sounds about a grandfather
who shouldn't be alone because the lips
revealed a quaver hidden by the folds
of the sounds, her face needed to cry
while her voice pretended
it was in the next room asking
if I want tea. She's like this
more than anyone should be like this,
wanting to help her grandfather
wrestle with food and air and the suddenly
spidery nature of sheets, at 87
everything's a tangle and driving
to buy soap or corn chips she remembers
that making change last Tuesday for a paper
he blanked on quarter and dime and just
opened his palm and let the man
wade through the silver waters.
I won't call you idiot by saying emotions
are like plate tectonics but her chin
buckles to the upwelling fear and what
she can't change she fastens on with greatest
devotion. Now and then someone will live
forever but otherwise the trajectories
are fixed. She knows this and that the bug
she tried to scoot out the window
had seven hours to live before a bat
scooped up another pinging meal.
There's no possible segue to the romance
we'd intended our lives to contain. I'm
a dumb ass because what I offer
for comfort is straight off the shelf, hand
on the thigh, kiss on the cheek, I excel
at purring uh-huh in a way that drives
the speaker on toward exhaustion. For her
I'd be a poison eater, my mouth
divine, I'd suck the sorrow out and spit
its thrashing body from the window
and there, her grandfather would live
forever, there, her friend's father
would rip the cancer from his chest
and weave it into a basket, there, she and I
will see mountains get bored
with clouds and money turn
to swallowtails and the moon
split into seven moons so there's always
one in the sky when you drive
to the ocean instead of the store
and get out of the car and swear
at emptiness because you know it's the animal
that will win.

Copyright © 2004 Bob Hicok All rights reserved
from Insomnia Diary
University of Pittsburgh Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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