For Valentines Day – A Love Poem with a Difference and R.I.P. Tony Hoagland – #3 in an On-going Series

Dead too soon at 64, American poet Tony Hoagland. Photo Credit: The New York times


The middle-aged man
who cannot make love to his wife
with the erectile authority of yesteryear
must lower his head and suck her breasts
with the tenderness and acumen of Walt Whitman
And if the woman has lost her breast
to the surgeon and his silver knife,
she must hump the man’s leg in the dark bedroom
like a rodeo bronco rider.

Let them be hard and wet again, respectively.
Let them convince and be convinced.

It is the kind of heroic performance
that no one will ever mention.
It is part of the journey where the staircase gets narrow
and you must turn sideways to pass.

Over the earth the clouds mutate and roll.
The trees catch their breath for another try.
Wind rips through the dried-out grass
                              with a threshing sound.

The man going under the covers.
The woman letting him.
Both of them refusing
to be stopped by shame.

All that talk about love, and This
is what the word was pointing at.

Tony Hoagland (1953-2018) from Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty, Graywolf Press, 2010

Valentine’s Day 2019. The excuse to dream unabashedly about love! It’s nearing the end of the day and my love is across the continent loving what she does with Somatics, the hands on art of waking up bodies, their muscles. And hidden behind a wooden carving of a man and a woman made by the Jamaican carver Brother Brown, she left me a Valentine’s card that I found by utter fluke two days ago. Love. This blog post is my Valentine’s message for her. The love made so real in the details of Hoagland’s poem. They are not our details but I hope our love has that grit and realness.

And all day I have seeing on-line all sorts of love poems. One of the best catch lines for one of the poems, from Tupelo Press, was an intelligently erotic love poem! And that made me remember Tony Hoagland’s erotic love poem with a difference. With an aching vulnerability. Yes, the poem still has arch Hoagland phrases that keep the poem fresh and unsentimental but this is as close to a sweet poem as Hoagland ever got!

I think it is the tenderness in the poem that gets me. And the un-Hollywoodness of it! Just lovers with aging imperfect bodies making the best of it. To get over our shame. That’s a big order. And it is delivered in this poem:

All that talk about love, and this
is what the word was pointing at.

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