35 Psaltery & Lyre: Michael Hicks, “We Gather Together”

 snow on fence


We Gather Together

The miles pass gracefully, like elk starving,
statues that walk. I steer in the right lane
toward home, where my third stepfather’s carving
carcasses of turkey and pig, the main
courses of flesh that smoke pretends to cure.
Mint jelly, yams, string beans, cranberry sauce,
and pumpkin pie, etc. Still not sure
what to call him: first name? Mister? A cross
between two nouns—say, “father” and “rival”?
I’ve practiced this before, like hard dough rolled
in sugar: how we sweeten survival.
Elks nuzzle frozen grass when earth gets cold.
We learn to consider how ice pursues
us to our bones. Or any bones we choose.


Composer, performer, scholar, and poet Michael Hicks received a DMA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1984 and has been teaching at BYU since 1985. He is the author of four books—Mormonism and Music: A History (1989), Sixties Rock: Garage, Psychedelic, and Other Satisfactions (1999), Henry Cowell, Bohemian (2002), and The Street-Legal Version of Mormon’s Book (2012); the first three of these were published by University of Illinois Press, which in 2012 published his book co-authored with Christian Asplund, entitled Christian Wolff.  His dozens of historical and analytical articles have appeared in books such as the Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World and the forthcoming Oxford Handbook to Mormonism as well as journals that include American Music, Journal of Aesthetic Education, Journal of the American Musicological Society, Musical Quarterly, and Perspectives of New Music. He has been a guest lecturer at Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley and has read papers at various national conferences (including UCLA’s multidisciplinary Conference on American Studies Connecting with Religion, 1991) and national meetings of the Society for American Music and the American Musicological Society.

He has twice won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award (1994 and 2003) for his writing about music and a third time as editor of the journal American Music, a post he held from 2007-2010. His poetry, meanwhile, has been published in Dialogue, BYU Studies, Literature and Belief, Sunstone, and in the anthologies Cadence of Hooves (2008), New Poets of the American West (2010), and Fire in the Pasture (2011).


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