:::this is the way the world ends:::

Poetry Post

Here’s an appropriate first poem to start the New Year. It starts with a muzak-version of Dylan and ends on a Dear Abby letter, and in between gets at our present moment.

–Shotts

Hard Rain

After I heard “It’s a Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”
played softly by an accordion quartet
through the ceiling speakers at the Springdale Shopping Mall,
I understood there’s nothing
we can’t pluck the stinger from,

nothing we can’t turn into a soft drink flavor or a t-shirt.
Even serenity can become something horrible
if you make a commercial about it
using smiling, white-haired people

quoting Thoreau to sell retirement homes
in the Everglades, where the swamp has been
drained and bulldozed into a nineteen-hole golf course
with electrified alligator barriers.

“You can’t keep beating yourself up, Billy,”
I heard the therapist say on television
to the teenage murderer,
“about all those people you killed—
you just have to be the best person you can be,

one day at a time”—

and everybody in the audience claps and weeps a little,
because the level of deep feeling has been touched,
and they want to believe that
the power of Forgiveness is greater
than the power of Consequence, or History.

Dear Abby:

My father is a businessman who travels.
Each time he returns from one of his trips,
his shoes and trousers
are covered with blood–
but he never forgets to bring me a nice present.
Should I say something?

Signed, America.

I used to think I was not part of this,
that I could mind my own business and get along,

but that was just another song
that had been taught to me since birth—

whose words I was humming under my breath,
as I was walking through the Springdale Mall.

–Tony Hoagland

2 Comments

  1. Ned

    Nice to have poems on the Hollow Men site. I like the poem and it is effective in inserting its own stinger, especially, signed America. It raises issues, some of which have been discussed on this website. I guess the next step would be to discuss what we can do, as individuals, to resist this kind of indolence in the face of corruption. Hoagland’s point is well taken only if we take it well. Thanks for the poem.

  2. Shotts

    I think some of Hoagland’s point, perhaps at the end of the poem, is that our involvement with this system of corruption is inevitable, at least to some degree. We hum along to its tune, even when we are aware of it. Thanks, Ned, for commenting.

    I’ll try to post poems fairly regularly.

    However, Jen and I are off to the Caribbean on Saturday morning, so we’ll be on Saint Thomas (and other US and British Virgin Islands) January 13-20. Should be a great trip–a needed one, in many regards.

    –Shotts

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