Poem-a-Day Friday: Tony Hoagland

Poem-a-Day Friday: Tony Hoagland July 13, 2012


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).

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