John Hicks

Solitude Is a Place

When I reach the edge
of dark-feathered light,
of pine scraping my field jacket,

and step onto the thin strip of sand
along this reach of Back Creek,
a heron is standing in the shallows.

Gray stillness.

Not fishing. Not even looking down.
Listening to my approach;
the silence that follows.

He draws up one leg as if uninterested in gravity.
Folds his neck. Looks away.
Disdain on a stick.

Dun-colored marsh grass and random islands of pine
fan east to a line of sky beneath a rumple of clouds
piled on an invisible floor above the Chesapeake.

You ask where I go on these walks,
what I do, and can you come, too.
I cannot explain. Solitude cannot be shared

Turning before I can leave, he crouches,
unscissors his legs, and pours out gray and white
languid downward thrusts.

Once all sticks and angles,
wings cup like the flare of a matador cape,
and he lifts from the water.

His speed draws him
into a line of bill, body, and legs.
He shifts downstream.

Skipping Stones

Boyhood skipped like stones
across Pacific inshore
smooth in its pause
between waves, one delivering,
the other drawing back.

We said the skips told how long you’d live,
so we chose our stones carefully.
Boys look for little fountains
the skips leave behind, unaware
the future is not in the touching down,
but the rising up again.

Is something real if unspoken?
I love you, you said, not knowing
I could not respond,
could not understand the tremble within,
but knowing my silence,
my looking away while standing fast,
was the dip of a signal flag.

Time skips over itself. Work took me
all over the country, but always
I came back to you.

Now I live near the Missouri—
no waves, no tide—
just muddy water on its way
to Kansas City, to St. Louis,
to join the Mississippi,
then New Orleans and the sea.

I’m standing on a narrow beach,
holding a small stone, my arm
not what it used to be.
I make the throw.

John Hicks has been published or accepted for publication by: South Florida Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Bangor Literary Journal, Verse-Virtual, Blue Nib, Poetica Review, and others. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Nebraska – Omaha, and writes in the thin mountain air of northern New Mexico.