I like her. I like
the signs of wear on her;
the way her breasts have dropped a little with the years;
the weathered evidence of joy around her eyes.
I like her faded jeans,
her hennaed hair;
her hips pried open by the child.
I find her interesting; her grey-eyed
calm of a resigned sea;
her stillness like a painting on the wall.
It’s not that you don’t care,
but after all, you’re just a man
who has been standing in
water up to his neck for years,
and never managed to quite
dunk his head entirely under.
So give me your wife. Recycle her.
Look at her mouth, like a soft dry rose;
the way she stands, at an angle
to the world.
She could still be kissed and joked with,
teased into a bed
with cool white sheets;
convinced to lie and be
laid down upon.
still find a place
Give me your wife
like you were
and leaving it behind.
Then just drift away
and let me try.
Tony Hoagland’s poems and essays have appeared widely. He is the author of several collections including Donkey Gospel, winner of the James Laughlin Award, and What Narcissism Means to Me, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He teaches creative writing at the University of Houston and at Warren Wilson College.
Mr. Hoagland, you are my favorite poet. It’s such a treat to see you here, among friends.
This is beautiful. Thank you for the gift of your words over the years. They have meant so much.
This is lovely. One of my favorite aspects of Hoagland’s poetry is his characterization of everyday things. And how he can write about ugly things and still manage to make them beautiful in some way. I recently read a piece of his in Ploughshares that described an ugly, uncomfortable occurrence but the way it was written made me want to read more, not less — an accomplishment when most of the time you’d rather just shut the door and walk away.
Tony Hoagland takes imagination into the realm of the possible with straightforward language and delicious imagery.
Stephen announced Tony’s death on Facebook today and because of that, I came here to read this poem. What a gift it is. What a splendid minute this just gave me, like a view of a river from high up. Now I must read more of his poems, maybe all of them.