Tony Hoagland

North Carolina / United States
Tony Hoagland
North Carolina / United States
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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.
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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Anil Kumar Panda 28 January 2017
This is not a way a mother should be treated. She is soft and lovely when old and must be treated kindly. Nice poem.
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Lantz Pierre 28 January 2017
To be able to peel away all the raw emotion to find the words that express all the complex layers of feeling with such touching, gentle and perverse joy is an neigh on miraculous. To step outside of oneself to see the self with such objective, crystal rationality, and then to come up with the words to do that justice is a humbling high-wire act over an abyss of blackness and beauty that I am nearly left speechless myself. Wow.
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Tom Allport 28 January 2017
a poem of compassion and understanding and that ultimately we are all made from the same mould.
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Edward Kofi Louis 28 January 2017
In any language. Thanks for sharing this poem with us.
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Courtney Stewart 23 November 2015
This resonates so deeply with me and my relationship with my mother. I never expected someone to be willing to reveal the darkened corners of the soul and speak on such a controversial feeling. To those in avid and immediate defense of the mother, consider that the speaker's feeling had to come from SOMEWHERE and that amount of pain and willingness for revenge cannot be wholly unfounded. The speaker's amount of humility and care necessary to even care for this woman who has obviously hurt him in some unspoken way is admirable, despite his obvious resentment. The ice cream resolution was truly a touching moment that I pray I will grow the heart to want to experience. Praise to Tony Hoagland for his willingness and ability to encapsulate all raw aspects of the human experience in his poetry. It does not go unnoticed.
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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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