Wednesday Poem

Poem That Walks From Fact to Wish

I was a skinhead

in look and seem, a balding guy trying out the future
with a shaved head while wearing blue jeans and a white T
and grinding up one of Seattle’s more Everesty hills,
when I was met by the real deal cruising the other way,

five shit-kickered dudes inked in swastikas
and Nazi daggers dripping blood, who nodded deep,
like dipping a bucket in a well, marking me as a brother
in hate, and passed before I could confess my lack of tats
and love of a Mexican Jew, I mean a kikey spic, I mean
there’s never time to get scientific and mushy
on guys trying to act the part of death,
to do what all good parents teach their tots to do
when meeting lives this unmoored, this lost at sea—
you whip out the statistical work of Joseph Chang:

“Our findings suggest a remarkable proposition:
no matter the languages we speak or the color
of our skin, we share ancestors who planted rice
on the banks of the Yangtze, who first domesticated horses
on the steppes of the Ukraine, who hunted giant sloths
in the forests of North and South America,
and who labored to build the Great Pyramid of Khufu.”

I promised myself that next time I’d be Johnny-on-the-spot
with the intellectual nunchucks, that I’d ease their longing
for a homeland by telling them we’ve all got a home
in Africa, where every soul currently huffing and puffing
got its ancient start, and that white isn’t a race,
a cutting apart, so much as an adaptation,
the process of learning to get along
with snow, I would I would I would I would I would I would

I brainchanted to myself while powering up the hill
and channeling the French, who so hiply invented éclairs,
and Paris, and l’esprit de l’escalier, or staircase wit,
when the right thing to say zooms to mind
as you’re walking away and have time to edit the past
to redress your failure to be brilliant, or in this case,
as in most cases, kind.

by Bob Hicock
Copper Canyon Press, 2018