Welcoming Guest Writer and Poet Tony Hoagland
Tony Hoagland won the 2005 Mark Twain Award from the Poetry Foundation, for humor in American poetry. His books of poems include What Narcissism Means to Me, and Donkey Gospel. He’s been the recipient of grants from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. He teaches at the University of Houston.
Editor's note: This poem was first featured in the July/August 2007 edition of Poetry Magazine where I read it for the first time this week. I wrote Mr. Hoagland to ask him to contribute his work to the ICP. This poem captures a sense of the awe and joy for the small details of life despite dire premonitions of our impending deaths. I hope that you find it inspiring.
Oh life, how I loved your cold spring mornings
of putting my stuff in the green gym-bag
and crossing wet grass to the southeast gate
to push my crumpled dollar through the slot.
When I get my allotted case of cancer,
let me swim ten more times at Barton Springs,
in the outdoor pool at 6AM, in the cold water
with the geezers and the jocks.
With my head bald from radiation
and my chemotherapeutic weight-loss
I will be sleek as a cheetah
--and I will not complain about life’s
I will not consider death a contractual violation.
Let my cancer be the slow-growing kind
so I will have all the time I need
to backstroke over the rocks and little fishes
looking upwards through my bronze-colored goggles
into the vaults and rafters of the oaks,
as the crows exchange their morning gossip
in the pale mutations of early light.
It was worth death to see you through these optic nerves,
to feel breeze through the fur on my arms
to be chilled and stirred in your mortal martini.
In documents elsewhere, I have already recorded
my complaints in some painstaking detail.
Now, because all things are joyful near water,
there just might be time to catch up on praise.
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