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People who live in glass houses
are surrounded by dirt birds, the images birds leave
when they fly into windows.
I refuse to wash them away, leaving that
to wind and rain, to the fire of time
that burns everything down. The portraits are lifelike
even though the birds who painted them
are almost certainly dead: often I can make out beaks
and individual feathers. My life is encompassed
by these Shrouds of Turin, I counted seventeen yesterday,
crows and robins and jays and the one
two feet from my face as I write
is/was a hawk, I can tell by how eager I am in its presence
to climb the air. It’s natural to put these birds

in the company of dried roses, abandoned factories,
any species of rust, the barn that should have fallen
ten years ago into the field no plow has touched
in half a century beside the road that has forgotten
where it’s going, but my every thought
is also their kin, a memory as soon as I shape it,
a dusty trace of whatever animal
the present moment is. Everything I say or write
is a relic, a vestige of the life
that moves and breathes beneath the surface
of my eyes and skin. What you read here

is just a version of a bird smacking into a window,
the page or screen a place where the glass houses
of our minds can touch the littlest bit and ask each other
what beauty is.

Bob Hicok’s most recent collection, Water Look Away, was published by Copper Canyon Press in August 2023. He has received a Guggenheim and two NEA Fellowships, the Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress, and nine Pushcart Prizes, and was twice a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His poems have been selected for inclusion in nine volumes of the Best American Poetry series.
Current Issue
20 May 2024

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