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By Bob Hicok

The best job I had was moving a stone

from one side of the road to the other.

This required a permit which required

a bribe. The bribe took all my salary.

Yet because I hadn’t finished the job

I had no salary, and to pay the bribe

I took a job moving the stone

the other way. Because the official

wanted his bribe, he gave me a permit

for the second job. When I pointed out

that the work would be best completed

if I did nothing, he complimented   

my brain and wrote a letter

to my employer suggesting promotion

on stationery bearing the wings

of a raptor spread in flight

over a mountain smaller than the bird.

My boss, fearing my intelligence,

paid me to sleep on the sofa

and take lunch with the official

who required a bribe to keep anything

from being done. When I told my parents,

they wrote my brother to come home

from university to be slapped

on the back of the head. Dutifully,

he arrived and bowed to receive

his instruction, at which point

sense entered his body and he asked

what I could do by way of a job.

I pointed out there were stones

everywhere trying not to move,

all it took was a little gumption

to be the man who didn’t move them.

It was harder to explain the intricacies

of not obtaining a permit to not

do this. Just yesterday he got up

at dawn and shaved, as if the lack

of hair on his face has anything

to do with the appearance of food

on an empty table.


"After working sixty hours again for what reason" from Insomnia Diary, by Bob Hicok, ©2004. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: Insomnia Diary (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004)

  • Activities
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Bob Hicok
Bob Hicok is the author of several collections of poems. He once worked in the automotive die industry and owned his own business, Progressive Technology. He has also taught creative writing at Western Michigan University and Virginia Tech. When asked by interviewer Laura McCullough about the relationship between restraint and revelation in his work, Hicok replied, “Because I don’t know where a poem is headed when I start, it seems that revelation has to play a central part in the poems, that what I’m most consistently doing is trying to understand why something is on my mind. . . . Maybe writing is nothing more than an inquiry into presences.” See More By This Poet

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