Bob Hicok

Hope (testicular cancer)

for M.C.

Mourning doves on the cedar planters I made last year
cooing and shitting like they were invited
to remind me I’m alive by the sun climbing the mountains
a little more to the north every day. Pulling out a bent nail

early and not angering it into place like I would have
when I was ten. Ocracoke being hard to get to

with its root beer floats and stories of shipwrecks I survive
every time. A lover who is sexy counting your lonely ball

over and over in the seventeen languages she knows
to count to one in. Blood delivering oxygen to the garden

of my body. The shed I’m building for shovels and wood
and shadows. The poem I’m building for my mind

to have a window to look out of. My mother

coming home from the hospital with third stage
liver disease instead of fourth, with a partially
collapsed lung instead of an announcement in the paper.
That two balls means you’ve been carrying a spare. I knew

this guy who had cancer, they kept cutting chunks of him out,
he’d return with absences inside and build a birdhouse
for each one, his mornings surrounded by the most musical air
he could breathe. Beyond such diligent fury

to live and the obsession of atoms to cloud in the shape
of my wife’s face and the moon following us with its slow
winking eye and the word Scheherazade sounding like slipping naked
down a water slide and lightning being a show-off with the spiky rivers
of its artistry and tractors bringing us wheat with steel
that could have been rifles and the ferocious salvation
of chemo and the cool breeze that just rose a hand to my face
and said, get on with it: beyond these things, there’s nothing more

than more of these things, in my experience, from where I sit
wondering if you’ve leaned a little to one side
since the operation and will tell your children
of your ghost ball decades from now and that you were afraid
you wouldn’t have the chance to meet them but then woke
and crawled out of the cave of anesthesia and the world
asked you to stay and you did.

Bob Hicok’s latest book, Elegy Owed, will be published by Copper Canyon Press in 2013.
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