Friday, March 26, 2010

Bob Hicok's poem about Virginia Tech

Bob Hicok, one of my favorite poets, has a poem in the February 2010 issue of Poetry that deals with the Virginia Tech shootings. I like the poem very much, though I must say the sixth line kind of clunks to my ear. Is it just because I already know he teaches at Virginia Tech? Or is it because "Virginia Tech" has become synonymous with "mass school shooting" much like "Columbine," therefore seeming like an all-too-loaded choice? Is this detail necessary to get the context or would it work fine without it? I just don't know.

Hicok has a new book of poems out, Words for Empty Words for Full, which you can buy me for my birthday (April 9).

In the loop

I heard from people after the shootings. People
I knew well or barely or not at all. Largely
the same message: how horrible it was, how little
there was to say about how horrible it was.
People wrote, called, mostly e-mailed
because they know I teach at Virginia Tech,
to say, there’s nothing to say. Eventually
I answered these messages: there’s nothing
to say back except of course there’s nothing
to say, thank you for your willingness
to say it. Because this was about nothing.
A boy who felt that he was nothing,
who erased and entered that erasure, and guns
that are good for nothing, and talk of guns
that is good for nothing, and spring
that is good for flowers, and Jesus for some,
and scotch for others, and “and” for me
in this poem, “and” that is good
for sewing the minutes together, which otherwise
go about going away, bereft of us and us
of them. Like a scarf left on a train and nothing
like a scarf left on a train. As if the train,
empty of everything but a scarf, still opens
its doors at every stop, because this
is what a train does, this is what a man does
with his hand on a lever, because otherwise,
why the lever, why the hand, and then it was over,
and then it had just begun.

(Bob Hicok, from the February 2010 issue of Poetry.)

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