Treasure Island

Bob Hicok

(1960 - / Michigan)

Duke


He was hit back of the head for a haul of $15,
a Diner’s Club Card and picture of his daughter in a helmet
on a horse tethered to a pole that centered
its revolving universe. Pacing the halls, he’d ask

for a blow job he didn’t want. The ward’s new visitors
didn’t know this request was all the injury
had left him to say, and would be shamed or pissed,
a few hitting him as he stood with his mouth

slightly open and large frame leaning in. His wife
divorced him for good and blameless reasons. He would not
be coming home to share his thoughts on film and weather,
or remembering her any longer than it took to leave a room.

He liked ham. Kept newspapers in drawers and under his bed,
each unread page hand-pressed flat. And when it snowed
he leaned into one of the sealed, unbreakable windows,
a cheek to the cool glass as he held his fingers

over his mouth and moaned low and constant like the sound
of a boat on the far side of a lake. When he died
they cut him open to see how his habits had been rewired
and so tightly looped. Having known him they were afraid

of what can happen when you cross the lot to the office
or pull up to a light and thump the wheel as you might
any hour. If you stare at the dyed
and beautiful cross sections of a brain, it’s natural

to wonder how we extract the taste of coffee
or sense of a note accurately found and held on an oboe
from this bramble. On Duke’s slides they circled
the regions of blight which explain

why almost all behavior we recognize as human was lost,
but not why a man who’d curl into a ball
like a caterpillar when barely touched, could only ask
for sex, for intimacy, for the very thing

he could least accept and lived twelve years without,
no embrace or caress, no kiss on the lips before sleep,
until he died in the lounge looking out on winter sky
that seemed eager to snow all day but didn’t.

Submitted: Monday, January 23, 2012

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