As I Was Saying
by Bob Hicok
Long, thin clouds as if the sky were smoking.
I tell it to stop or share, it doesn’t stop or share,
this is what happens to my requests: they rise.
When I was a kid, a neighbor man
had a few and tied a cherry bomb to a pigeon,
it flew furiously until kaboom. Feathers
and bits of what made the pigeon go
landed on the Smitky twins playing hopscotch,
they looked up, I looked at them looking up,
two of everything the same, as if their parents
knew the odds of needing a spare. My wife
wants to fly in a hot-air balloon. I say to her,
I’ll wait here with the turtles. I try to save them
from getting squished when they cross the road.
They don’t know it’s a road or what a road
is for, getting away is what a road is for,
then coming back, then wondering why you came back
is what a road is for. My wife’s people
are Ukrainian, beets are important to them.
I tried to arm-wrestle her father once, he said,
Why would I do that: if I beat your arm,
the rest of you will want revenge.
I never looked at it that way. Forty-two years now
I’ve tried to look at it that way. The other day,
some kids knocked a ball through our window,
one of them asked for it back, I said, Sure,
if you give me the bat. He did, then asked
for the bat, I said, If you give me the ball,
he started to hand it over when I saw understanding
bloom in his face. That never happened for me:
understanding blooming in my face. Not the way
I wanted it to. So I’ll die and someone
will have to deal with what’s left, the body,
the shoes, the socks. The last person on Earth
will just be dead: not buried or mourned
or missed. As with kites, I cut the string
when they’re way up, because who’d want to come back.
So somewhere are all these kites, as somewhere
are all the picture frames from the camps,
and the bows from hair, and the hair itself
I saw once in a museum, some of it, in a room
all its own, as if one day the heads
would come back and think, That’s where I put you,
as I do with keys when I find them in my hand.
The New Yorker, December 8, 2008