Why this?

The occasional piece of my own and a generous helping of others' creations I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Drawn In

“That reminder that it can be different, that you need not go through your life unknown but that you probably still will—that is the part that's almost unbearable." —Curtis Sittenfeld in Prep

You were on the train
drawing everyone
around you, your hand
nimble as a gymnast,
pencil wheeling clean
across the sharp white
paper of your sketchbook.

I sat watching—
your minute-quick studies
animate, lines articulate,
the way you nailed
the slyest of ‘staches,
curl captured with
the faintest of merriment.

Then your eyes were on
me. I tried not to look
up from my reading
as you sketched yours
in cool graphite. And
how difficult that was!
Hard not to check in
often, hope to steal
something affirming.
Still, I managed to restrict
my glances to a scant few.
(That woman could’ve
been anyone.)

You must’ve aced it,
though, for the chill—
that scaled my spine
as you sat rendering
me, your focus narrowed
to almost nothing,
my thin wooden cylinder
weakening, was the rarest
kind, reserved for
the handful of times
we’re actually seen.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Dark Matter

I've lived my life as if I were my wife
packing for a trip—I'll need this and that
and I can't possibly do without that!

But now I'm about
what can be done without.
I just need a thin valise.

There's no place on earth
where I can't unpack in a flash
down to a final spark of consciousness.

No place where I can't enter
the joyless rapture
of almost remembering

I'll need this and I'll need that,
hoping to weigh less than silence,
lighter than light.
--Jack Myers

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day Without Coffee

Pastel turnover
behind eyes, pace pastoral
Far cry from the usual staccato
Each thought lingering
well into the next
Though not so long
as to blend beyond telling
Just enough to take the edge off
as they say,
which is exactly it.

Even my blood
seems to have slowed
Veins like streams
feeding their riverbody
with deliberate pleasure
Like the one thing
they desire
more than anything
is to give.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

da DUM

Having only known poetry
as “writer of” for a few lit-up months,
it occurred to me this morning
while on the train predicting grief,
the possibility that some kind soul
is arming me, has armed me,
with a means not of protection
exactly, but of permeability, so that
I may leak my way home—
not in iambic anything,
but in schema more discordant:
whatever, however.

And yet, who’s to say sadness
won’t take on a certain shape—
dropped porcelain heirloom
cracked perfectly down the center seam—
organizing itself into
small, metered feet.


Already Forgotten

On the train towards work
a girl aged two or so
squirms in her Maclaren stroller,
her attention lurching between
the adult passengers around her
and a book about butterflies.
At one point the book slips
from her grasp; I reach down
to retrieve it, smile, place it on her lap.
This girl—Lauren, she’s called—
returns a wonderfully sloppy smile,
years yet from anything pulled
tight. Her father, he of corduroy
pants and kind-eye crinkles,
prods her to “thank the nice lady,”
which she does, adorably (“tank”).

As I sit with temporary lift,
contemplate “life lightweight,”
Lauren’s rubber-band body contorts,
back curling out, and a full-on wail
escapes, filling the car.


To her right, another stroller-bound
toddler, maybe a year Lauren’s elder,
looks up from his dimpled hands,
objects of recent study.
While other passengers cringe,
rush to stuff their ears
with music, this little boy is
calm through the outburst.
He turns to his distressed
peer, eyes all empathy.
I know, I know. But they don’t.
They’ve already forgotten.


Suicide Song

But now I am afraid I know too much to kill myself
Though I would still like to jump off a high bridge

At midnight, or paddle a kayak out to sea
Until I turn into a speck, or wear a necktie made of knotted rope

But people would squirm, it would hurt them in some way,
And I am too knowledgeable now to hurt people imprecisely.

No longer do I live by the law of me,
No longer having the excuse of youth or craziness,

And dying you know shows a serious ingratitude
For sunsets and beehive hairdos and the precious green corrugated

Pickles they place at the edge of your plate.
Killing yourself is wasteful, like spilling oil

At sea or not recycling all the kisses you've been given,
And anyway, who has clothes nice enough to be caught dead in?

Not me. You stay alive you stupid asshole
Because you haven't been excused,

You haven't finished though it takes a mulish stubbornness
To chew this food.

It is a stone, it is an inconvenience, it is an innocence,
And I turn against it like a record

Turns against the needle
That makes it play.

--Tony Hoagland

Narcissus Lullaby

If someone anywhere right now
is imagining me,
saying my name thoughtfully,

with her pink tongue touching
the smooth ceiling of her mouth
softly to pronounce the T,

like the first brush stroke
in a figurative landscape painting of

--then I can relax a moment
in the matter of remembering myself,
I can close my eyes and let

the whole factory of identity go
drifting in the dark
like a big brick warehouse full of anxious secrets

in an unsafe neighborhood
gone quiet at the end of day,
yet guarded and protected and caressed

by the softly conscious flashlight
of my imaginary friend's

--Tony Hoagland

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Social Life

After the first party peters out,
like the gradual slowdown of a merry-go-round,
another party begins

and the survivors of the first party
climb onto the second one
and start it up again.

Behind me now my friend Richard
is getting a fresh drink; Ann, in her black dress,
is fanning her breasts; Cynthia is prancing
from group to group,
making kissy-face--

It is not given to me to understand
the social pleasures of my species, but I think
what they get from these affairs
is what bees get from flowers--a nudging of the stamen,

a sprinkle of pollen
about the head and shoulders--

whereas I prefer the feeling of going away, going away,
stretching out my distance from the voices and the lights
until the tether breaks and I

am in the wild sweet dark
where the sea breeze sizzles in the hedgetop,

and the big weed heads, whose names I never learned,
lift and nod upon their stalks.

What I like about the trees is how
they do not talk about the failure of their parents
and what I like about the grasses is that
they are not grasses in recovery

and what I like about the flowers is
that they are not flowers in need of
empowerment or validation. They away

upon their thorny stems
as if whatever was about to happen next tonight
was sure to be completely interesting--

the moon rising like an ivory tusk,
a few sextillion molecules of skunk
strolling through the air
to mingle with the aura of a honeysuckle bush,

and when they bump together in my nose,
I want to raise my head and sing,
I'm a child in paradise again
when you touch me like that, baby,

but instead, I stand still and listen
to the breeze streaming through the upper story of a tree
and the hum of insects in the field,
letting everything else have a word,

and then another word--
because silence is always good manners
and often a clever thing to say
when you are at a party.

--Tony Hoagland

Linking to these, for spacing-specific reasons


"Spring Lemonade"

"Physiology of Kisses"

Hate Hotel

Sometimes I like to think about the people I hate.
I take my room at the Hate Hotel, and I sit and flip
through the heavy pages of the photographs,
the rogue's gallery of the faces I loathe.

My lamp of resentment sputters twice, then comes on strong,
filling the room with its red light.
That's how hate works--it thrills you and kills you

with its deep heat.
Sometimes I like to sit and soak
in the Jacuzzi of my hate, hatching my plots

like a general running his hands over a military map--
and my bombers have been sent out
over the dwellings of my foes,
and are releasing their cargo of ill will

on the targets below, the hate bombs falling in silence
into the lives of the hate-recipients.

From the high window of my office
in the Government of Hate,
where I stay up late, working hard,
where I make no bargains, entertain no
scenarios of reconciliation,

I watch the hot flowers flare up all across
the city, the state, the continent--
I sip my soft drink of hate on the rocks
and let the punishment go on unstopped,

--again and again I let hate
get pregnant and give birth
to hate which gets pregnant
and gives birth again--

and only after I feel that hate
has trampled the land, burned it down
to some kingdom come of cautery and ash,
Only after it has waxed and waned and waxed all night
only then can I let hate

creep back in the door. Curl up at my feet
and sleep. Little pussycat hate. Home sweet hate.

--Tony Hoagland

Phone Call

Maybe I overdid it
when I called my father an enemy of humanity.
That might have been a little strongly put,
a slight overexaggeration,

an immoderate description of the person
who at that moment, two thousand miles away,
holding the telephone receiver six inches from his ear,
must have regretted paying for my therapy.

What I meant was that my father
was an enemy of my humanity
and what I meant behind that
was that my father was split
into two people, one of them

living deep inside of me
like a bad king or an incurable disease--
blighting my crops,
striking down my herds,
poisoning my wells--the other
standing in another time zone,
in a kitchen in Wyoming,
with bad knees and white hair sprouting from his ears.

I don’t want to scream forever,
I don’t want to live without proportion
like some kind of infection from the past,

so I have to remember the second father,
the one whose TV dinner is getting cold
while he holds the phone in his left hand
and stares blankly out the window

where just now the sun is going down
and the last fingertips of sunlight
are withdrawing from the hills
they once touched like a child.

--Tony Hoagland

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


"In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot." --Czeslaw Milosz

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


"There are so many things that we wish we had done yesterday, so few that we feel like doing today." --Mignon McLaughlin

Willie Wisdom

"I never thought I'd live this long. Clean living and dirty thoughts probably did it. I don't believe in adhering to any rules I don't support and I didn't vote for. To hell with what people think. Just be who you are and you'll be happy." --Willie Nelson