Symptoms and Pathology of Swallowing a Foreign Object: A Symposium

by Michael Hicks


I ate a book and it swallowed me back.
Follow the right words when you can.
If you can’t, they will pursue you.


Ship’s Captain:
The weather doesn’t tell the truth.
It is the truth.
We are always in its belly.


A Whale:
I was so young.  Like most children
I put everything in my mouth.
Some mothers, like mine,
almost die from morning sickness.
More of their children die
from what they swallow.


When you’ve heard sermons
by preachers from many lands,
what’s one more?
We’ve drunk from all the streams in the world.
We’ve tasted wine from every keg.
So to us, the foreigner the better.


Which is my best invention—
swallowing or vomiting?
I still can’t decide.
There are many ways to get things
into the bloodstream
but few to get them out.

Author, composer, and performer MICHAEL HICKS has been teaching at Brigham Young University since 1985. He has authored seven books: Mormonism and Music: A History (1989), Sixties Rock: Garage, Psychedelic, and Other Satisfactions (1999), Henry Cowell, Bohemian (2002), Christian Wolff (co-authored with Christian Asplund, 2012), and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: A Biography (2015)—all published by University of Illinois Press—as well as The Street-Legal Version of Mormon’s Book (2012) and Do Clouds Rest?: Dementiadventures with Mom (2017), both self-published. His eighth book, Spencer Kimball’s Record Collection: Essays on Mormon Music will be published by Signature Books in 2020.

His historical and analytical articles have appeared in books such as the Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World and the Oxford Handbook of Mormonism as well as more than a dozen journals that include the Journal of the American Musicological Society and American Music, for which he was the editor from 2007-2010.

His poetry has appeared in various Mormon-themed journals and in the anthologies Cadence of Hooves (2008), New Poets of the American West (2010), and Fire in the Pasture (2011).

For more, especially about his music, go to

Image: “Jonah and the Whale” by Stuart Rankin