Poet Tony Hoagland (Photo via omiami.org)

Poet Tony Hoagland (Photo via omiami.org)


 
 

There Is No Word

There isn’t a word for walking out of the grocery store
with a gallon jug of milk in a plastic sack
that should have been bagged in double layers

—so that before you are even out the door
you feel the weight of the jug dragging
the bag down, stretching the thin

plastic handles longer and longer
and you know it’s only a matter of time until
bottom suddenly splits.

There is no single, unimpeachable word
for that vague sensation of something
moving away from you

as it exceeds its elastic capacity
—which is too bad, because that is the word
I would like to use to describe standing on the street

chatting with an old friend
as the awareness grows in me that he is
no longer a friend, but only an acquaintance,

a person with whom I never made the effort—
until this moment, when as we say goodbye
I think we share a feeling of relief,

a recognition that we have reached
the end of a pretense,
though to tell the truth

what I already am thinking about
is my gratitude for language—
how it will stretch just so much and no farther;

how there are some holes it will not cover up;
how it will move, if not inside, then
around the circumference of almost anything—

how, over the years, it has given me
back all the hours and days, all the
plodding love and faith, all the

misunderstandings and secrets
I have willingly poured into it.

 

 
 

 

About Tony Hoagland

Tony_HoaglandTony Hoagland was born in 1953 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He earned a BA from the University of Iowa and an MFA from the University of Arizona. Hoagland’s poetry is known for its acerbic, witty take on contemporary life and “straight talk,” in the words of New York Times reviewer Dwight Garner, who continued: “At his frequent best … Mr. Hoagland is demonically in touch with the American demotic.”

Hoagland’s books of poetry include Sweet Ruin (1992), which was chosen for the Brittingham Prize in Poetry and won the Zacharis Award from Emerson College; Donkey Gospel (1998), winner of the James Laughlin Award; What Narcissism Means to Me (2003), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Rain (2005); and Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty (2010). He has also published a collection of essays about poetry, Real Sofistakashun (2006).

Hoagland’s many honors and awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. He has 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 teaches at the University of Houston and in the Warren Wilson MFA program.

 
 

Join the Gwarlingo Community

Gwarlingo Donation ButtonGwarlingo is member supported and relies on contributions from readers like yourself to remain ad-free. Thanks to all of the readers who have contributed to the Gwarlingo Membership Drive so far. Instead of selling out to advertisers, I’m “selling out” to my readers instead! More than 300 Gwarlingo readers have contributed so far. If you haven’t donated yet, you can check out my video and all of the member rewards, including some limited-edition artwork, here on the Gwarlingo site. Donors who give $50 or more get an interactive profile on the Gwarlingo Member page. Members are also featured regularly in the Gwarlingo email newsletter.
 
 

Further Exploration

Check out the Gwarlingo Store–a handpicked selection of books, movies, etc. of interest to writers, artists, teachers, art lovers, and other creative individuals. A portion of all your purchases made through the Gwarlingo Store portal, benefits Gwarlingo. Prefer to shop online from an independent? Visit the IndieBound Gwarlingo portal here.
 
 

 
 

“There is No Word” © Tony Hoagland. Poem and biography courtesy of The Poetry Foundation. All rights reserved.