My dearest Y. and B.—

I’ve written and rewritten this letter many times. Didn’t want to sound trite, didn’t want to come off like a cliched greeting card either.

How does one find the right words for joy, for knowing that you’re spending a lifetime with the one person in the whole world that fits you? How can I describe how happy I am to be made part of this, to witness two people turning a page, writing a new chapter together? I take a cue from Nicole Krauss, in her book, The History of Love:

There is no word for everything.

Nevertheless, let me try to say it the best I can:

Y.—we’ve called each other Soulmates for as long as I can remember (senior high school, I think?). I haven’t the slightest idea anymore why—perhaps because we stood in a small room and realised exactly how much we have in common?

Or don’t have in common—because look at how our lives have diverged, the paths we took, the people we met, the changes we went through. And yet some things still stay the same. And yet the universe still made sure that our threads continue to tangle.

There was a meeting of minds (and hearts) the day we forged our friendship. I am crossing my fingers that this bond will always keep. Today though, Y., you will be walking towards your true Soulmate, and how lovely to see you off, to watch him receive you in his arms! I think it will be a beautiful sight—a privilege, really.

B.—one of my memories of you was one afternoon talking about Murakami. You spoke of staying up late in a coffee shop, asking them to let you finish the book before they close for the night. I can’t remember what the book was—was it Norwegian Wood? (It was my favourite, you know. It will always have my heart.)

That image stayed with me, all through these years. I remember thinking, I remember feeling relieved and sure—that you will take care of my friend. That she will be safe with you, and grow with you, and be loved. All because you told me you read a book until the end.

I didn’t know that years later, I would be here, writing this letter. Perhaps you knew. Perhaps both of you knew.

Thank you for showing me that love is real.

Yours,
T.

Other Lives And Dimensions And Finally A Love Poem
Bob Hicok

My left hand will live longer than my right. The rivers
of my palms tell me so.
Never argue with rivers. Never expect your lives to finish
at the same time. I think

praying, I think clapping is how hands mourn. I think
staying up and waiting
for paintings to sigh is science. In another dimension this
is exactly what’s happening,

it’s what they write grants about: the chromodynamics
of mournful Whistlers,
the audible sorrow and beta decay of Old Battersea Bridge.
I like the idea of different

theres and elsewheres, an Idaho known for bluegrass,
a Bronx where people talk
like violets smell. Perhaps I am somewhere patient, somehow
kind, perhaps in the nook

of a cousin universe I’ve never defiled or betrayed
anyone. Here I have
two hands and they are vanishing, the hollow of your back
to rest my cheek against,

your voice and little else but my assiduous fear to cherish.
My hands are webbed
like the wind-torn work of a spider, like they squeezed
something in the womb

but couldn’t hang on. One of those other worlds
or a life I felt
passing through mine, or the ocean inside my mother’s belly
she had to scream out.

Here, when I say I never want to be without you,
somewhere else I am saying
I never want to be without you again. And when I touch you
in each of the places we meet,

in all of the lives we are, it’s with hands that are dying
and resurrected.
When I don’t touch you it’s a mistake in any life,
in each place and forever.

1 This is from Plus Shipping by Bob Hicok, published by BOA Editions, Ltd., 1998.

2 This is a draft of a letter I wrote to Y. on the day of her wedding.

3 Here is Bob Hicok reading his poem, after answering a question about it.

4 I first read this in 2005. Somehow Y. found it, too. I remember when she told me about a poem she loved. Something about hands, she said. I looked at her and asked, “Hicok?” She nodded, and we didn’t need any words after that.

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Dear R: There is a letter I’ve been meaning to write you. I suppose enough days have passed by. I don’t know if you are waiting. I am. I love you. I am waiting; the Other never waits.

The Maple
Bob Hicok

is a system of posture for wood.
A way of not falling down
for twigs that happens
to benefit birds. I don’t know.
I’m staring at a tree,
at yellow leaves
threshed by wind and want you
reading this to be staring
at the same tree. I could
cut it down and laminate it
or ask you to live with me
on the stairs with the window
keeping an eye on the maple
but I think your real life
would miss you. The story
here is that all morning
I’ve thought of the statement
that art is about loneliness
while watching golden leaves
become unhinged.
By ones or in bunches
they tumble and hang
for a moment like a dress
in the dryer.
At the laundromat
you’ve seen the arms
thrown out to catch the shirt
flying the other way.
Just as you’ve stood
at the bottom of a gray sky
in a pile of leaves
trying to lick them
back into place.

It’s been almost four years since I first read a Hicok poem, and I still don’t have any book by him on my shelf. Sometime in August of 2005, I wrote this note to myself: “Discovered Bob Hicok today and felt my world unravel.” Sometime in that moment, I got lost in a poem and it took a whole week before I was able to bring myself back.

Sometimes I wish I was living elsewhere, so I can go through bookstores hoarding paperbacks of poets I love. And then sometimes I wish we have more people who are not afraid (and just a tiny bit ashamed? embarrassed?) to say that they write poetry for a living (myself included), here in my lovely, sad city, so I won’t have to go far.

One Interpretation of Your Silence
Bob Hicok

Probably I hurt your aesthetic feelings.
How I said a thing, how I held a lamp
to the night. These should walk without us—
words, the dark—is perhaps your view
of existence. I can’t know,

you provide no puppet theater,
no tumbling routine for me to engage
in spirited discourse. That a face
comes with every body, and a body
with every name, makes it seem

like we’re the same species,
when a cursory kissing shows how multiform
any one puckerer is. I’m sorry
I’m not the Wednesday or club sandwich
you expected, imagine my surprise

that you’re not the world peace
I really do want, it’s not just a thing
I say to the judges inspecting my cleavage.
If you’ll try again I’ll try again,
however trying we are. “To the puppies” is a phrase

I carry around in search of the context
in which shouting it will change everything.
If you have no such rip-chord, we really
shouldn’t be seen together in public,
for you are the matter for which I

am the anti-matter, and as “Lost in Space”
showed us if it showed us nothing else,
it’s not good for life when they meet,
and I want to do what is good for life,
because I want life to return the favor.