John Hicks is an emerging poet: has been published or accepted for publication by: Sheila-Na-Gig Online, South Florida Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Bangor Literary Journal, The Wild Word, 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.
A Minute at Midnight
New Year’s hoopla on the screen irritates me.
Flashing lights, staged countdown, champagne
cheers, breathless celebrities introducing others
while announcers interrupt to remind
the nearness of the big moment.
I’m out back.
Sand here is coarse; grits beneath my feet.
Not enough light to glitter the mica in it.
Above the mesa, the full moon hangs
like an antique medallion in a velvet case.
It pours silver light onto juniper and pinon.
Something small rasps across a dry yucca leaf—
its moving away acknowledges my presence.
To the east, across the arroyo, an adobe shack still
has Christmas lights swagging its porch eaves:
big garish things I remember people draping
on outdoor trees to make them stand out.
We had lights like that when I was a boy—
their metal branch clips kept getting lost
year-to-year. Farmers in Olivenhain Valley
used them on the giant tree they set up
in the old German meeting hall. We went
to see it once on Christmas eve. The place
smelled of pine. Everyone sang carols,
our voices disappearing into the dark rafters.
Their children did the manger scene.
Santa visited, too. Gifts for all the children.
Got my first pocket knife.
Both my grandfathers carried one. Useful
for cutting string, opening packages,
slicing an apple—grandfather things.
Now, it’s where my jeans wear through.
This sky’s so clear, it’s like a blanket
tucking us in among these ridges.
The sort of night when growing up,
I could sleep outdoors, my body
under a shelter half that captured dew
while I looked up at the stars.
Beyond the shack, a car disturbs a coyote.
On a windless night like this, dust
will hang in the air after the car. The coyote
lifts a thin, wavering cry like a young dog
wanting to be let in. Others nearby
sing to it, letting it know where they are.
nothing in that other world knows where I am.