What poet Bob Hicok knows for sure

Photo: Denise Royal

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"What I Know for Sure," by Bob Hicok
Some people, told of witness trees, 
pause in chopping a carrot 
or loosening a lug nut and ask, 
witness to what? So while salad 
is made, or getting from A to B 
is repaired, these people 
listen to the story 
of the Burnside Bridge sycamore, 
alive at Antietam, bloodiest day 
of the war, or the Appomattox Court House 
honey locust, just coming to leaf 
as Lee surrendered, and say, at the end, 
Cool. Then the chopping 
continues with its two sounds, 
the slight snap to the separation 
of carrot from carrot, the harder crack 
of knife against cutting board, 
or the sigh, also slight, of a lug nut 
as it's tightened against a wheel. In time, 
these people put their hands 
under water and say, not so much to you 
but to the window in front of the sink, 
Think of all the things 
trees have seen.
Then it's time 
for dinner, or to leave, and a month passes, 
or a year, before two fawns 
cross in front of the car, or the man 
you've just given a dollar to 
lifts his shirt to the start 
of the 23rd psalm tattooed 
to his chest, "The Lord is my shepherd, 
I shall not want," when some people 
say, I feel like one of those trees, 
you know?
And you do know. 
You make a good salad, change 
a wicked tire, you're one of those people, 
watching, listening, a witness 
to whatever this is, 
for as long as it is 
amazing, isn't it, that I could call you 
right now and say, They still 
can't talk to dolphins 
but are closer,
as I still 
can't say everything I want to 
but am closer, for trying, to God, 
if you must, to spirit, if you will, 
to what's never easy for people 
like us: life, breath, the sheer volume 
of wonder.

Bob Hicok is the author of This Clumsy Living (University of Pittsburgh Press) and associate professor of English at Virginia Tech.
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