By Tony Hoagland
The big country beat the little country up
like a schoolyard bully,
so an even bigger country stepped in
and knocked it on its ass to make it nice,
which reminds me of my Uncle Bob’s
philosophy of parenting.
It’s August, I’m sitting on the porch swing,
touching the sores inside my mouth
with the tip of my tongue, watching the sun
go down in the west like a sinking ship,
from which a flood of stick orange bleeds out.
It’s the hour of meatloaf perfume emanating from the houses.
It’s the season of Little League practice
and atonal high school band rehearsals.
You can’t buy a beach umbrella in the stores till next year.
The summer beauty pageants are all over,
and no one I know won the swimsuit competition.
This year illness just flirted with me,
picking me up and putting me down
like a cat with a ball of yarn,
so I walked among the living like a tourist,
and I wore my health uneasily, like a borrowed shirt,
knowing I would probably have to give it back.
There are the terrible things that happen to you
and the terrible things that you yourself make happen,
like Frank, who gave his favorite niece
a little red sports car
for her to smash her life to pieces in.
And the girl on the radio sings,
You know what I’m talking about. Bawhoop, awhoop.
This year it seems like everyone is getting tattoos—
Great White sharks and Chinese characters,
hummingbirds and musical notes—
but the only tattoo I would want to get
is of a fist and a rose.
But I can’t tell how they will fit together on my shoulder.
If the rose is inside the fist, it will be crushed or hidden;
if the fist is closed, as a fist by definition is,
it cannot reach out to the rose.
Yet the only tattoo I want this year
is of a fist and rose, together.
Fist, that helps you survive.
Rose, without which
you have no reason to live.