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with Jesus

Tony Hoagland (1953–2018)

Special Problems in Vocabulary

There is no single particular noun 
for the way a friendship, 
stretched over time, grows thin, 
then one day snaps with a popping sound. 

No verb for accidentally 
breaking a thing 
while trying to get it open 
—a marriage, for example. 

No particular phrase for 
losing a book 
in the middle of reading it, 
and therefore never learning the end. 

There is no expression, in English, at least, 
for avoiding the sight 
of your own body in the mirror, 
for disliking the touch 

of the afternoon sun, 
for walking into the flatlands and dust 
that stretch out before you 
after your adventures are done. 

No adjective for gradually speaking less and less, 
because you have stopped being able 
to say the one thing that would 
break your life loose from its grip. 

Certainly no name that one can imagine 
for the aspen tree outside the kitchen window, 
in spade-shaped leaves 

spinning on their stems, 
working themselves into 
a pale-green, vegetable blur. 

No word for waking up one morning 
and looking around, 
because the mysterious spirit 

that drives all things 
seems to have returned, 
and is on your side again.

Tony Hoagland (1953–2018) was an American poet. His many honors and awards included fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. He received the O.B. Hardison Prize for Poetry and Teaching from the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Award and the Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers. Hoagland taught at the University of Houston and in the Warren Wilson MFA program.

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