Poem-a-Day Friday: Tony Hoagland


I know I keep giving you poems from poets I don’t know enough about to really discuss. But I’m at my parents’ house, watching my kids fill up hours and hours playing with their cousins until it’s way too late. And I can’t help it: I’m full of nostalgia. I love Amarillo summer nights, how dry it is, how it cools down into the low 80s and everything glows the same shade as the setting sun. I love how late the sun stays up here (9:30 these days) and how it feels like an eternity from dinnertime to night sky.

I just wanted to read a poem today about that feeling, that longing for the freedom and sweetness of summer. I don’t know more than Tony Hoagland‘s name. But I love what this poem makes me feel.

Summer in a Small Town


Yes, the young mothers are beautiful,
with all the self-acceptance of exhaustion,
still dazed from their great outpouring,
pushing their strollers along the public river walk.

And the day is also beautiful—the replica 19th-century paddle-wheeler
perpetually moored at the city wharf
with its glassed-in bar and grill
for the lunch-and-cocktail-seekers
who come for the Mark Twain Happy Hour
which lasts as long as the Mississippi.

This is the kind of town where the rush hour traffic halts
to let three wild turkeys cross the road,
and when the high school music teacher retires
after thirty years

the movie marquee says, “Thanks Mr. Biddleman!”
and the whole town comes to hear
the tuba solos of old students.

Summer, when the living is easy
and we store up pleasure in our bodies
like fat, like Eskimos,
for the coming season of privation.

All August the Ferris wheel will turn
in the little amusement park,
and screaming teenage girls will jump into the river
with their clothes on,
right next to the No Swimming sign.

Trying to cool the heat inside the small towns
of their bodies,
for which they have no words;
obedient to the voice inside which tells them,
“Now. Steal Pleasure.”

Source: Poetry (July/August 2009).

  • http://tumbledweeds.wordpress.com campbell c. hoffman

    gah! love this: “and we store up pleasure in our bodies” — this IS summer, yes? Thanks for sharing, as always.

    • michaboyett

      Yes, that’s my favorite line too!

      • http://justabitofsilliness.blogspot.com sillydoodah (dawn)

        Mine too! Great poem.

  • http://katieleigh.wordpress.com Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams

    As a fellow small-town Texas girl, I love this. So much.

  • http://www.soberboots.com Heather Kopp

    Micha, thanks for this. It’s a lovely poem. I posted a poem on my blog today for the first time ever. A portion of Rilke. I have realized that I’m starving for art lately. I came across you and your blog and subscribed a while back and I’m so glad I did. I’ll keep reading–especially on Fridays! I am trying right now to make poetry part of my morning time every day, at least for a while. Thanks for taking time to write. Love what you and your blog are about. Heather

  • Clio

    Wow this makes me homesick for Amarillo :) I have been away too long.

  • http://www.lovewellblog.com Kelly @ Love Well

    This left a mark on me. I had it open on my browser for days, intending to leave a comment.
    In the end, I wrote a post.