43 Psaltery & Lyre: Michael Hicks, “Skin Dive”

apple peels


Skin Dive

We are not furred like dogs
or feathered like ducks, no
rows of scales clog our touch
like tree bark, just this

smooth membrane stretching
and sagging on our meat
and bone, to hold us in
the shape we recognize

in the mirror or whose
fine surface we scrub and
foam then wrap in fabric
even when we die.

We crease our days into it
like bookmarks saving places
to which we never return.
We take an apple in our hand,

praise its gleaming slick
skin shining in our eyes.
Our tongues water
to chew it, dissolve its flesh

into our own
One thing we know:
if we did not pluck it
from a branch it would

fall eventually, the way
apples fell in the Garden,
the way Adam fell into
his bare skin, his pores

opening and shutting like
flowers, his feet scuffing
the lawn, his hands
reaching into treelimbs

to pet the only skin
as smooth as his own.


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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