Hicok, Bob

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey
  • Date of entry: Jun-01-2000
  • Last revised: May-18-2007


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.


Hicok's poems have a marvelous arc to them. Along that arc are curious nooks and eddies filled with surprising observations and fresh thoughts. The doctors mentioned in the poem work so efficiently that they know "reflexively" how to use their equipment and devices. This is a surprising word choice and worth considering. Hicok keeps this poem moving with wit, the flair of a storyteller, poetic devices such as enjambment, and, above all, graceful observations of life.


Hicok is recipient of a 1999 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Primary Source

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Place Published

Rochester, N.Y.