Excerpt: 'Words For Empty And Words For Full'  

Excerpt: 'Words For Empty And Words For Full'

A primer

I remember Michigan fondly as the place I go
to be in Michigan. The right hand of America
waving from maps or the left
pressing into clay a mold to take home
from kindergarten to Mother. I lived in Michigan
forty-three years. The state bird
is a chained factory gate. The state flower
is Lake Superior, which sounds egotistical
though it is merely cold and deep as truth.
A Midwesterner can use the word "truth,"
can sincerely use the word "sincere."
In truth the Midwest is not mid or west.
When I go back to Michigan I drive through Ohio.
There is off I-75 in Ohio a mosque, so life
goes corn corn corn mosque, I wave at Islam,
which we're not getting along with
on account of the Towers as I pass.
Then Ohio goes corn corn corn
billboard, goodbye, Islam. You never forget
how to be from Michigan when you're from Michigan.
It's like riding a bike of ice and fly fishing.
The Upper Peninsula is a spare state
in case Michigan goes flat. I live now
in Virginia, which has no backup plan
but is named the same as my mother,
I live in my mother again, which is creepy
but so is what the skin under my chin is doing,
suddenly there's a pouch like marsupials
are needed. The state joy is spring.
"Osiris, we beseech thee, rise and give us baseball"
is how we might sound were we Egyptian in April,
when February hasn't ended. February
is thirteen months long in Michigan.
We are a people who by February
want to kill the sky for being so gray
and angry at us. "What did we do?"
is the state motto. There's a day in May
when we're all tumblers, gymnastics
is everywhere, and daffodils are asked
by young men to be their wives. When a man elopes
with a daffodil, you know where he's from.
In this way I have given you a primer.
Let us all be from somewhere
Let us tell each other everything we can.


A bee in the field. The house on the mountain
reveals itself to have been there through summer.
It's not a bee but a horse eating frosted grass
in the yawn light. Secrets, the anguish of smoke
above the chimney as it shreds what it's learned
of fire. The horse has moved, it's not a horse
but a woman doing the stations of the cross
with a dead baby in her arms. The anguish of the house
as it reveals smoke to the mountain. A woman
eating cold grass in Your name, shredding herself
like fire. The woman has stopped, it's not a woman
but smoke on its knees keeping secrets in what it reveals.
The everything has moved, it's not everything
but a shredding of the anguish of names. The marriage
of light: particle to wave. Do you take? I do.

First do no harm

While trying to extract a fly from a spider web,
I pulled one of its legs off.
There is the thought of small prosthetics, image
of a tiny hospital, tiny being too big a word
for the nano-this and micro-that, calipers
and scalpels and whats-its.

Once I grant soul, it's hard to stop.

Does a carrot have any, and if any, more than cucumber
but less than squash?

Philosophy should lead to salad.

I was trying to help. By this phrase
we have watch fob, atomic bomb, the Red Cross, how often
does anyone believe otherwise, does anyone say,
I was trying to muck things up.

A limping fly.
Were I a Hindu, I'd say it was or will be me.

I like that as the name of a river: Wasorwillbe.

The Wasorwillbe flooded, hundreds were killed.
Six months later,
the best crop of wheat in a century.

I see a boat, a man asleep in the boat, his hand asleep
on the water, a fly asleep on his hand.

Excerpted from Words for Empty and Words for Full by Bob Hicok. Copyright 2010 by Bob Hicok. Excerpted by permission from University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.