Calling Him Back from Layoff

By Bob Hicok b. 1960 Bob Hicok
I called a man today. After he said
hello and I said hello came a pause
during which it would have been
 
confusing to say hello again so I said
how are you doing and guess what, he said
fine and wondered aloud how I was
 
and it turns out I’m OK. He
was on the couch watching cars
painted with ads for Budweiser follow cars
 
painted with ads for Tide around an oval
that’s a metaphor for life because
most of us run out of gas and settle
 
for getting drunk in the stands
and shouting at someone in a t-shirt
we want kraut on our dog. I said
 
he could have his job back and during
the pause that followed his whiskers
scrubbed the mouthpiece clean
 
and his breath passed in and out
in the tidal fashion popular
with mammals until he broke through
 
with the words how soon thank you
ohmyGod which crossed his lips and drove
through the wires on the backs of ions
 
as one long word as one hard prayer
of relief meant to be heard
by the sky. When he began to cry I tried
 
with the shape of my silence to say
I understood but each confession
of fear and poverty was more awkward
 
than what you learn in the shower.
After he hung up I went outside and sat
with one hand in the bower of the other
 
and thought if I turn my head to the left
it changes the song of the oriole
and if I give a job to one stomach other
 
forks are naked and if tonight a steak
sizzles in his kitchen do the seven
other people staring at their phones
 
hear?

Bob Hicok, "Calling Him Back from Layoff" from Insomnia Diary. Copyright © 2004 by Bob Hicok.  Reprinted by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: Insomnia Diary (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004)

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Poet Bob Hicok b. 1960

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Activities, Jobs & Working, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics

 Bob  Hicok

Biography

Bob Hicok was born in 1960 in Michigan and worked for many years in the automotive die industry. A published poet long before he earned his MFA, Hicok is the author of several collections of poems, including The Legend of Light, winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry in 1995 and named a 1997 ALA Booklist Notable Book of the Year; Plus Shipping (1998); Animal Soul (2001), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; . . .

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SUBJECT Activities, Jobs & Working, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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