I like the humor and matter-of-fact tone of a lot of the sixty-five poems in this book, like the great simile below, which comes from “How we came to live where we live”:

as when you stand before a painting
in a museum for as long as you hope
says something good about you, even
when you’re not sure what that good thing is,
that you’re considerate of red or appreciate
the historical significance of the brocade
or know that the woman in the foreground
holding the scythe was the painter’s lover

Many of these poems are elegies, or include death in various forms, but never in ways that feel heavy-handed, and often in ways that are surprisingly lovely: in “Excerpts from mourning,” the speaker talks about

Carrying ash of you to the Atlantic
(Kittery), bonebits to the Pacific (Point Lobos), giving you
to seals and otters and pollution, to waves and forgetting
and whales.

Other highlights for me were Pilgrimage (that last stanza especially), Desire, and Equine Aubade. I was less fond of the poems where sound and rhyme are more prominent, like “Owe is to ode as whatever is to I don’t know,” with rhymes like “I owe the crow, I know” and “When I’m dead, I want my head/to be ashtray/in a bus station, tagged/at will by slugs and mugs,” but when Hicok is writing more prosily, while still playing with poetic form, he’s great, like in this bit from “The days are getting longer”:

[…] it’s hard
to help the dead be dead
before they are. Mourning

doves, cardinals, chickadees
strip the cupboard bare
in a matter of hours,

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