Lucky Poem by Tony Hoagland


Rating: 3.4

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.

Jonathan Larsen 29 May 2007

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.'

1 5 Reply
Renee Scheibe 12 July 2015

It IS sad. But also very real. Not all children have idyllic relationships with their oarents.. it gets very "real" when those parents age and are vulnerable. Not all children are motivated by love.. but moreso a desire to reclaim the power they feel wad stripped from them so long ago as well as a desire to be " good enough". Beautifully exposed.

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Edward Kofi Louis 28 January 2017

In any language. Thanks for sharing this poem with us.

3 2 Reply
Tom Allport 28 January 2017

a poem of compassion and understanding and that ultimately we are all made from the same mould.

2 2 Reply
Mandira Mitra 04 May 2007

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

3 1 Reply
Chinedu Dike 29 October 2022

Piece of great elegance

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Dr Antony Theodore 25 April 2018

Her eyelids fluttered as I soaped and rinsed her belly and her chest, the sorry ruin of her flanks... a very fine poem , it touched me about what u wrote about the mother. thanku dear poet.

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Rajnish Manga 28 January 2017

Very poignant poem that brings to fore the impact of aging in life. Thanks.

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Ratnakar Mandlik 28 January 2017

The precious bondage and most intimate relationship of a child and mother marvelously unfolded. Thanks for sharing it here.

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Bernard F. Asuncion 28 January 2017

No mother in her right mind abandons her child. We must love our mothers. Not all are mothers but everyone is a son or daughter.........

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Tony Hoagland

Tony Hoagland

North Carolina / United States
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