Without judgment

The two of them had punched each other
over a span of sixty years — uppercuts and sucker —
in times of war and fifty percent off sales
and famine — in Boston and wearing galoshes —
during the ballet and post surgery — jabs
and haymakers — they were thorough and loving
about these fisticuffs — drawing blood
and giving blood in turn — breaking three jaws
total, or one and one half jaw per man —
a busted spleen — an embarrassed picture window —
then one of them died and the other tried to beat
the shit out of his tombstone — first with fists —
then with the stubs of first with fists —
then just gnawed at the thing with microscopic success —
a race between his teeth and stone — a debate
between his sorrow and tolerance for pain — every day
he was there and bloody, there and screaming —
and every day people who had lost someone
saw this man and understood how wimpy
their lilies were — that their handkerchiefs
were flags of surrender — and bit the earth —
and brought shovels and earthmovers —
and prayed to God to give them the strength
to hate God — and God pondered — God searched
the soul of God — and God said yes, I give you
the strength to hate God — and they thanked God
for giving them the strength to hate God — this
was love — the circle of love — and they bit
the earth again, only deeper — and the earth bit back

A prodigal in shitty weather

When I got to the ocean, the ocean was cold.
I threw my scarf in to be a pal.
A guy in a wetsuit wanted to surf
but the gray waves were not very athletic.
Four fat cargo ships with American stuff
were erased by the horizon. Freezing
but I took my shoes off and stepped into the past.
When I feel I don't love anything
I try to get to the ocean. When I think
I have a bad molar I try to get to the ocean.
When I fail to use the subjunctive
I try to get to the ocean. Sometimes I succeed,
other times I put glitter above my eyes
and tell the moon I am a princess,
come save me. My batting average
for getting to the ocean is not very good,
but viewed as a blood transfusion, every step
toward water is a homecoming parade. Waves
go whoosh, my heart goes whoosh. This
is all the evidence of good parenting I need.

Bob Hicok's latest book is Elegy Owed (Copper Canyon, 2013). His latest meal is French toast.