- The Quiet Americans
A woman lives across from the White House in Lafayette Square. She doesn't like nuclear weapons and wants them to go away. She's been there for years, carrying on this relationship of patience with the North Lawn. It was late and I couldn't sleep. I was thinking I'd been misspelling "misspelled" my whole life. If my attempts to speak of my mistakes are mistaken, the soufflé will never come out right. On the other side of the brick street cars aren't allowed to drive on, I sat and stared at the box home of the woman who doesn't want us to burn down the world. I thought, given the hour, someone would come along with their machine gun and tell me my sitting was a terrorist act, but no such Dobermans appeared. I'm sure my watching of her watchfulness was watched by a camera, that this digital and tiny version of my insomnia is like looking at the first baseman through binoculars turned [End Page 36] the wrong way. I was hoping she'd stick her head out, that I'd have a face to add to my memory of admiring putting your body forward as the bearer of your ideals, all those nights of rain and being spit on by guys from Poughkeepsie, or that she'd come out and we'd talk about throw weight and how we'll be the missing link between cave painters and those who can say, "that was a mistake," and then take the atomic whirligigs apart. The White House at night is the prettiest cage. I walked some more, among sleeping stores and naked, genital-free manikins and came back, her protest still there and Andrew Jackson on his horse and sat again, this time squinting so my looking would be focused into some kind of ray that would enter her dreams and tell her she's not alone, and what a brief army of togetherness we were, ineffectual as the nudge of falling leaves unless the Richter scales are tuned to the whisper, the needles hopping quixotically when our sleep-sighs amass as a quake of wanting more of what pillows have been promising on the cool side: that we can turn over and start again.
Bob Hicok’s fifth book, This Clumsy Living, will be published in the spring of 2007 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. He recently won American Poetry Review’s Jerome J. Shestack Prize and the Anne Halley Prize from Massachusetts Review.