Bob Hicok’s “Whither Thou Goest”

This is the opening poem in Bob Hicok’s collection, Animal Soul.

Whither Thou Goest

Bob Hicock

Fish can have mad cow disease and I have a problem
with that. Purity suffers and salmon can’t
moo can’t paw grass with the furious
strokes the essential bovine
faith that there’s something in the earth
for everyone. All along I’ve wanted
the good days to be the good days and not
good like drilling your teeth is good
when it stops but good like moonlight
on my wife’s hip with the sheets
pulled back and her hair riotous
and misconstrued. That’s one thing
and not another. That’s the best use
of a bed and two bodies working out
the most inclusive form of redemption
known in the universe this side
of black holes, which is where I want
to be considering that on the other side
of black holes fish with mad cow disease
are indistinguishable from Komodo dragons
who play power forward in the NBA. I’m not
ashamed to admit my prayers are no longer
unconscious but loud and practiced
to the skin of the mirror to the muse
of the cereal box to the road as I drive
everywhere trying to find the last 3/8″
drill this city has because I don’t
believe in god but trust that pushing
veneration through my body makes god
exist if only for a second
within the chambered nuances of breath.
In my favorite prayer I apologize for not
having shouted earlier and in public say
from the back of the subway the top
of a table in a Fort Worth bar that whither
thou goest I will follow.
This should be said
every day and with no substitutions
for the archaic whither which is the tender
part the broken wheel of the phrase. This
should be repeated like the turbulence
of blood repeats harmonically or at least
until it’s understood that even
if the way things are becomes the way
they are not I’ll be there when mad cows
attack when madder fish swim back
through the streams when a black hole
shows up at the door wearing a tie
and promising to suck all dirt all evil
all manner of woe from this life
and smiling in a fashion that breaks
your knees. Whither or when thou goest,
how and why you flee, in what manner
or mode you glide or thrash
there’s the mercy of the bond,
there’s the moment you wake or refuse
to ever sleep again, there’s still
your face when the wind’s so fat it curls
in the field to lick its wounds,
and my promise to be there, conspicuously mad
in my devotion.

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One response to “Bob Hicok’s “Whither Thou Goest”

  1. this is seriously good. Readable in spite of the format, bouncing back and forth between utter prosody (can I use “prosody” that way?) and a kind of intensely concentrated poetry. I think the bouncing back and forth is musical, as if it could be used to heighten the drama or simply provide exposition. This poem, I guess, is somehow operatic.

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