Thursday, September 11, 2008

the fat lady sings

I've always been pretty vocal about my dislike for poetry. Too much seriousness and froofy language and hidden meaning. So I was a little surprised when my sister got me two poetry books for my birthday. But when I opened one of them to the first poem she'd bookmarked (she knows me and my stubbornness all too well) and saw that it was titled "Dickhead" I knew I could trust her. Tony Hoagland's poems are funny, observant, thought-provoking, down-to-earth, and, best of all, succinct enough for those with an inability to read anything longer than a blog post in one sitting. Here's "Dickhead" and another favorite that deserves to be in its entirety on the internet.

Here in Berkeley
the jogger with the Rastafarian sweats
runs past the mechanic reading Marx on lunch break
with a sprout sandwich for a bookmark
as the sunlight through a bottle of Perrier
wobbles little rainbows on his knee.

On the corner, someone wearing I Ching earrings
is talking about personal space,
how she just can't take it anymore,
the way that Marcia's codependency
defeats her own empowerment.
"The whole seminar is out of whack," she says,
slapping a bouquet of daisies on her knee.

Close your eyes,
swing a baguette horizontally,
you'll hit someone with a Ph.D.
in sensitivity,
someone who,
if not a therapist himself,
will offer you the number of his therapist,

which--it may take you years
to figure out--is a hostile act on his part
designed to send you on a wild-goose chase
through the orchard of your childhood
to fetch the tarnished apple of your mother's love.

And if you don't like it,
there might be something
wrong with you. You might be so
reincarnationally headed
in the wrong direction,
that you can't hear the music hovering
above this zone of crystal vendors
and karmic mountaineers.

Now the traffic lights harmonically converge:
the traffic flows
past the bakeries and bookstores,
past the cappuccino depot and the acupuncture center.

No matter how you feel, you have to act
like you are very popular with yourself;
very relaxed and purposeful,
very unconfused
and not
like you are walking through the sunshine
in chains.


Anonymous said...

as a real berkeley native, i have to say that this poem is pretty much perfect. thank you for putting the whole thing on the web--i was googling it to try to find it for my friend (i lost the xerox i was given) and this seems to be the only website that has the entire poem.

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