Learn More

Tony Hoagland

(1953 - / North Carolina / United States)


If you are lucky in this life,
you will get to help your enemy
the way I got to help my mother
when she was weakened past the point of saying no.

Into the big enamel tub
half-filled with water
which I had made just right,
I lowered the childish skeleton
she had become.

Her eyelids fluttered as I soaped and rinsed
her belly and her chest,
the sorry ruin of her flanks
and the frayed gray cloud
between her legs.

Some nights, sitting by her bed
book open in my lap
while I listened to the air
move thickly in and out of her dark lungs,
my mind filled up with praise
as lush as music,

amazed at the symmetry and luck
that would offer me the chance to pay
my heavy debt of punishment and love
with love and punishment.

And once I held her dripping wet
in the uncomfortable air
between the wheelchair and the tub,
until she begged me like a child

to stop,
an act of cruelty which we both understood
was the ancient irresistible rejoicing
of power over weakness.

If you are lucky in this life,
you will get to raise the spoon
of pristine, frosty ice cream
to the trusting creature mouth
of your old enemy

because the tastebuds at least are not broken
because there is a bond between you
and sweet is sweet in any language.

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

Tony Hoagland's Other Poems

Do you like this poem?
1 person liked.
0 person did not like.

Read poems about / on: sorry, music, power, child, mother, water, dark, life, trust, children

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Comments about this poem (Lucky by Tony Hoagland )

Enter the verification code :

  • Rookie - 660 Points Cynthia Buhain-baello (4/19/2012 7:43:00 PM)

    Very sad for the mother for a son to treat her as an enemy - she had hell of a life before she even died. Not a general way sons regard their mother, though, and the poem succeeded in bringing forth a disturbing theme. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Jonathan Larsen (5/29/2007 3:10:00 PM)

    If God created humans, and God created language, then God created poetry.
    Perhaps this is the way that God has chosen to deal with 'such horrific feelings.' (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Mandira Mitra (5/4/2007 11:01:00 AM)

    I disagree. There is nothing that poetry cannot express, even if its a silent animosity. Well done. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Melvina Germain (2/26/2007 8:16:00 AM)

    A very sad and grusome poem indeed, I wonder what God thinks of the person in your poem that speaks of this poor Mother. Only God can deal with such horrific feelings. I feel pain for both people in your poem, the adult child and the Mother. They both need much prayer. This poem shows a great deal of pain, followed by sad imagry and also a profound message to parents around the world. Though very sad and harsh, it is full of painful truth.--Melvina-- (Report) Reply

Read all 4 comments »

Trending Poets

Trending Poems

  1. The Saddest Poem, Pablo Neruda
  2. The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
  3. If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
  4. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
  5. Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
  6. If, Rudyard Kipling
  7. Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
  8. Invictus, William Ernest Henley
  9. Dreams, Langston Hughes
  10. A Prayer To Mother Nature., Marcondes Pereira

Poem of the Day

poet James Whitcomb Riley

There! little girl; don't cry!
They have broken your doll, I know;
And your tea-set blue,
And your play-house, too,
Are things of the long ago;
...... Read complete »


New Poems

  1. Epistle therefrom Death, Sir Toby Moses
  2. Being Rich, Randy McClave
  3. Chief glory, gajanan mishra
  4. If I Get There, Luis Estable
  5. That Savor Is So, Luis Estable
  6. No One KnowsThe Pain I Feel, Luis Estable
  7. The Kentucky Hangnail, Randy McClave
  8. Bell, Book & Candle, David Lewis Paget
  9. Dear baby - (Something Casual), Mitta Xinindlu
  10. A Glowing Morning, Rohit Sapra
[Hata Bildir]