Reading: Beauty by Tony Hoagland

Saddened by the death of Tony Hoagland (1953 – 2018), the sharp and witty American poet, I read one of his poems today.

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.

A precise narrative poem. I like the rich picture he paints of the girl who ‘perfected the art of being a dumb blond’. The superficiality of her beauty and how it was over so suddenly.
And that description of spring! Isn’t it gorgeous, climbing up on the mulched bodies of our forebears to wave our own flags in the parade?

Being done with beauty seems to denote a higher truth here, an acceptance of the circle of life and love. And the disinterested trance of the ‘other’ women who continue being beautiful. Isn’t it the same trance as the sister experienced when she throws out beauty, to the secret place that keeps it safe?

Reading: Beauty by Tony Hoagland was originally published on Meandering home

Oh Queen of Macedonia

Oh Queen of Macedonia we are the symptoms of a molecular joke, so will you dance me the mad dance again with the rage in your flaming hair, the dance you danced that night in the heartened dark behind the market? Will you trace the wild measures until they glow stiff, trapped in the teem of your world because my love there is no dance without words, only movement.

There is no without a beginning; we happen beyond the spell of our primate metaphysics, oh Queen of Macedonia, we are mistral ventures rippling across the hottening sand. We sheath each other in the world like this, setting suns over its asphaltic veins and smelting a farewell to the reckoning who enjoyced this, who is not mad for lack of lack, who is not afraid to reinvent everything for the mild embedded illness that we are.

Reality is repetition, the cavernous gesture we make at each other when we are not sleeping. There is a mild curiosity in its echo mustaching the promise of endless spacing, the glimpsing of a fish world to inhabit. In defiance we hew cobblestone streets helixing the tower of Babel, to the disoxygenated heights where memories lie dying, where we abet the master’s language lest she stales our thoughts away. We Rorschach the paladins in stony rows and plot the consciousness of the king who absented himself in premature nocturia. We offer Him prayment with the folding of our hands.

Oh mather now your night has fallen, you once nocturned me and weaned me curious. I derelish the womby presense you had of me, so let the old skippers bid their good-byes to you in their evening rags, and let me not speak out the palimpsest that I carry on my aching palate. Whence it winnows in my dreams, I am drawing a plow over barren land and sow, and sow

our storyness grows, like layers of ice upon ice assailed by dancing feet. Ten years ago I was squirreling, raincoated for the thaw of your forgotten smiles, I was a curfewed Thales sandaling away the starry evenings. Oh Queen of Macedonia, do you feel the weight of Dionysos underneath the breadth of your orgasm? You compassed all of my world in me so I implore you, Sistercian, my sweet sorella, speak to me.

Oh Queen of Macedonia was originally published on Meandering home