November 27, 2022

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A poem by Tony Hoagland for his birthday [ed. Terence Winch]

1 min read

my father’s vocabulary

In the history of American speech,

he was born between “Dirty Commies” and “Nice tits”.

He worked for Uncle Sam

and married a giddy Pittsburgh girl with a mouth on her.

I was conceived in the decade

between “Far Out” and “Whatever”;

the very moment when “go all the way”

morphed into “put it on”.

Sometimes, I swear I can feel the idioms flying around in my head

like moths left over from the Age of Aquarius.

Or I hear myself speaking and it feels like I’m carrying

a no longer groovy cologne from the seventies.

Back then I was always trying to get a rap session going

and he always told me how to tidy the garage.

Our last visit was in the twilight zone of a clinic

between “feeling no pain” and “catching a buzz”.

I had carefully prepared for this occasion

a suitcase full of small talk

– But he was already grabbed and walked backwards,

with the nice tits and the dirty clerks,

to the little town of his vocabulary,

Somewhere outside of Pittsburgh.


More information on Tony Hoagland (November 19, 1953 – October 23, 2018):


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