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About this Poem 

"So much of what I love about poetry lies in the vast possibilities of voice, the spectacular range of idiosyncratic flavors that can be embedded in a particular human voice reporting from the field. One beautiful axis of voice is the one that runs between vulnerability and detachment, between 'It hurts to be alive' and 'I can see a million miles from here.' A good poetic voice can do both at once."
—Tony Hoagland

Coming and Going

Tony Hoagland, 1953

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.

Copyright © 2013 by Tony Hoagland. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 25, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Tony Hoagland. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 25, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Tony Hoagland

Tony Hoagland

Born on November 19, 1953, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Tony Hoagland

by this poet

poem
At this height, Kansas 
is just a concept, 
a checkerboard design of wheat and corn

no larger than the foldout section 
of my neighbor's travel magazine. 
At this stage of the journey

I would estimate the distance 
between myself and my own feelings 
is roughly the same as the mileage

from Seattle to New York
poem
If you are lucky in this life, 
you will get to help your enemy 
the way I got to help my mother
when she was weakened past the point of saying no.

Into the big enamel tub 
half-filled with water 
which I had made just right, 
I lowered the childish skeleton 
she had become.

Her eyelids fluttered as I soaped
poem
Prolonged exposure to death 
Has made my friend quieter.

Now his nose is less like a hatchet
And more like a snuffler.

Flames don't erupt from his mouth anymore
And life doesn't crack his thermometer.

Instead of overthrowing the government
He reads fly-fishing catalogues

And takes photographs of water.
An