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"Coming and Going"
Tony Hoagland

My marriage ended in an airport long ago.
I was not wise enough to cry while looking for my car,

walking through the underground garage;
jets were roaring overhead, and if I had been wise

I would have looked up at those heavy-bellied cylinders
and seen the wheelchairs and the frightened dogs inside;

the kidneys bedded in dry ice and Styrofoam containers.
I would have known that in synagogues and churches all over
town

couples were gathering like flocks of geese
getting ready to take off, while here the jets were putting down

their gear, getting ready for the jolt, the giant tires
shrieking and scraping off two

long streaks of rubber molecules,
that might have been my wife and I, screaming in our fear.

It is a matter of amusement to me now,
me staggering around that underground garage,

trying to remember the color of my vehicle,
unable to recall that I had come by cab--

eventually gathering myself and going back inside,
quite matter-of-fact,

to get the luggage
I would be carrying for the rest of my life.
mercifulserpent: (Default)

In late August when the streams dry up



and the high meadows turn parched and blond,

bears are squeezed out of the mountains
down into the valley of condos and housing developments.

All residents are therefore prohibited
from putting their garbage out early.

The penalty for disobedience will be
bears: large black furry fellows

drinking from your sprinkler system,
rolling your trashcans down your lawn,

bashing through the screen door of the back porch to get their
first real taste of a spaghetti dinner,

while the family hides in the garage
and the wife dials 1-800-BEARS on her cell phone,

a number she just made up
in a burst of creative hysteria.

Isn't that the way it goes?
Wildness enters your life and asks

that you invent a way to meet it,
and you run in the opposite direction

as the bears saunter down Main Street
sending station wagons crashing into fire hydrants,

getting the police department to phone
for tranquilizer guns,

the dart going by accident into the
neck of the unpopular police chief,

who is carried into early retirement
in an ambulance crowned with flashing red lights,

as the bears inherit the earth,
full of water and humans and garbage,

which looks to them like paradise.
mercifulserpent: (Default)
Patience by Tony Hoagland

'Success is the worst possible thing that could happen
to a man like you,' she said,
'because the shiny shoes, and flattery
and the self-
lubricating slime of affluence would mean
you’d never have to face your failure as a human being.'

There was a rude remark I could have made back to her right then
and I watched it go by like a bright blue sailboat
on a long gray river of silence,
watching it until it disappeared around the bend

while I smiled and listened to her talk,
thinking it was good to let myself be stabbed by her little spears,
because I wanted to see what I was made of

besides fear and the desire to be liked
by every person on the goddamn face of the earth —

To tell the truth, I felt a certain satisfaction in taking it,

letting her believe that I was just a little bird
opening my mouth and swallowing
the medicine she wanted to administer
— a mixture of good advice combined with slow-acting poison.

Is it strange to say that there was something beautiful
in the sight of her running wild, cut loose in an
epileptic fit of telling the truth?

And anyway, she was right about me,
that I am prone to certain misconceptions,

that I should never get so big or fat that I
can’t look down and see my own naked dirty feet,

which is why I kept smiling and smiling as she talked —.

It was a beautiful day. I felt like crying.

I knew that if I could succeed at being demolished,
I could succeed at anything.

Windchime

Nov. 4th, 2011 01:02 pm
mercifulserpent: (Default)
Windchime
by Tony Hoagland

She goes out to hang the windchime
in her nightie and her work boots.
It’s six-thirty in the morning
and she’s standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,

windchime in her left hand,
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she’s trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.

She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it—the wind blowing
through the sound the windchime
wasn’t making
because it wasn’t there.

No one, including me, especially anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving—
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands upon the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth
with the nail in it.
mercifulserpent: (Default)
America by Tony Hoagland
Then one of the students with blue hair and a tongue stud

Says that America is for him a maximum-security prison



Whose walls are made of RadioShacks and Burger Kings, and MTV episodes

Where you can’t tell the show from the commercials,



And as I consider how to express how full of shit I think he is,

He says that even when he’s driving to the mall in his Isuzu



Trooper with a gang of his friends, letting rap music pour over them

Like a boiling Jacuzzi full of ballpeen hammers, even then he feels



Buried alive, captured and suffocated in the folds

Of the thick satin quilt of America



And I wonder if this is a legitimate category of pain,

or whether he is just spin doctoring a better grade,



And then I remember that when I stabbed my father in the dream last night,

It was not blood but money



That gushed out of him, bright green hundred-dollar bills

Spilling from his wounds, and—this is the weird part—,



He gasped “Thank god—those Ben Franklins were

Clogging up my heart—



And so I perish happily,

Freed from that which kept me from my liberty”—



Which was when I knew it was a dream, since my dad

Would never speak in rhymed couplets,



And I look at the student with his acne and cell phone and phony ghetto clothes

And I think, “I am asleep in America too,



And I don’t know how to wake myself either,”

And I remember what Marx said near the end of his life:



“I was listening to the cries of the past,

When I should have been listening to the cries of the future.”



But how could he have imagined 100 channels of 24-hour cable

Or what kind of nightmare it might be



When each day you watch rivers of bright merchandise run past you

And you are floating in your pleasure boat upon this river



Even while others are drowning underneath you

And you see their faces twisting in the surface of the waters



And yet it seems to be your own hand

Which turns the volume higher?
mercifulserpent: (Default)
Beauty

When the medication she was taking
caused tiny vessels in her face to break,
leaving faint but permanent blue stitches in her cheeks,
my sister said she knew she would
never be beautiful again.

After all those years
of watching her reflection in the mirror,
sucking in her stomach and standing straight,
she said it was a relief,
being done with beauty,

but I could see her pause inside that moment
as the knowledge spread across her face
with a fine distress, sucking
the peach out of her lips,
making her cute nose seem, for the first time,
a little knobby.

I'm probably the only one in the whole world
who actually remembers the year in high school
she perfected the art
of being a dumb blond,

spending recess on the breezeway by the physics lab,
tossing her hair and laughing that canary trill
which was her specialty,

while some football player named Johnny
with a pained expression in his eyes
wrapped his thick finger over and over again
in the bedspring of one of those pale curls.

Or how she spent the next decade of her life
auditioning a series of tall men,
looking for just one with the kind
of attention span she could count on.

Then one day her time of prettiness
was over, done, finito,
and all those other beautiful women
in the magazines and on the streets
just kept on being beautiful
everywhere you looked,

walking in that kind of elegant, disinterested trance
in which you sense they always seem to have one hand
touching the secret place
that keeps their beauty safe,
inhaling and exhaling the perfume of it—

It was spring. Season when the young
buttercups and daisies climb up on the
mulched bodies of their forebears
to wave their flags in the parade.

My sister just stood still for thirty seconds,
amazed by what was happening,
then shrugged and tossed her shaggy head
as if she was throwing something out,

something she had carried a long ways,
but had no use for anymore,
now that it had no use for her.
That, too, was beautiful.
mercifulserpent: (Default)
I Have News for You

There are people who do not see a broken playground swing
as a symbol of ruined childhood

and there are people who don't interpret the behavior
of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.

There are people who don't walk past an empty swimming pool
and think about past pleasures irrecoverable

and then stand there blocking the sidewalk for other pedestrians.
I have read about a town somewhere in California where human beings

do not send their tuberous feeder roots
deep into the potting soil of others' emotional lives

as if they were greedy six-year-olds
sucking the last half inch of milkshake up through a noisy straw;

and other persons in the Midwest who can kiss without
unpacking the imperialist baggage of heterosexuality.

Do you see that creamy, lemon-yellow moon?
There are some people, unlike me and you,

who do not yearn after love or fame or quantities of money as
unattainable as that moon;

Thus, they do not later
have to waste more time
defaming the object of their former ardor.

Or consequently run and crucify themselves
in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.

I have news for you:
there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room

and open a window to let the sweet breeze in
and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies.

-- Tony Hoagland

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