Bob Hicok

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Hicok, Bob

Last Updated: May-18-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem


Hicok begins the poem with a statement and jocular rhetorical question that set the tone and pace: "There are two kinds of people and five hundred / seventy-one thousand, three hundred / ninety-six species of beetle but who's / counting?" Immediately we wonder what are the two types of people and who would take the trouble to write out a species count while also joking about it.

The engagement with the poem continues as we learn about the narrator's platonic friend, an entomologist, freshly returned from the Amazon with a bottled beetle and a raging fever. The narrator, alarmed at her delusional state, rushes her to the hospital ("driving / in a way that proved you can be / in two places at the same time") and good medical care. After several days she has regained enough strength to say one word--jar--which refers to the jar containing her beetle specimen. The narrator restores the jar to her, she recovers and returns to the life she loves, a life in the treetops of the Amazon jungle.

Through the course of the poem, the poet plays with all manner of philosophy and religion. The beetle's body is likened to Michelangelo's image of the finger of God reaching towards Adam. The poet plays with numbers as well, rearranging the numbers of types of people and beetles (and throwing in the number of "delicatessens where you can get a fried- / tuna sandwich on waffles"). This lightness is a disarming way to shed light on the heart of the poem--the narrator's deep caring for the scientist and the scientist's deep caring for her work of discovery.

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