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By Tony Hoagland

Play the one about the family of the ducks

where the ducks go down to the river

and one of them thinks the water will be cold

but then they jump in anyway

and like it and splash around.


No, I must play the one

about the nervous man from Palestine in row 14

with a brown bag in his lap

in which a gun is hidden in a sandwich.


Play the one about the handsome man and woman

standing on the steps of her apartment

and how the darkness and her perfume and the beating of their hearts

conjoin to make them feel

like leaping from the edge of chance—


No, I should play the one about

the hard rectangle of the credit card

hidden in the man’s back pocket

and how the woman spent an hour

plucking out her brows, and how her perfume

was made from the destruction of a hundred flowers.


Then play the one about the flower industry

in which the migrant workers curse their own infected hands

from tossing sheaves of roses and carnations

into the back of the refrigerated trucks.


No, I must play the one about the single yellow daffodil

standing on my kitchen table

whose cut stem draws the water upwards

so the plant is flushed with the conviction


that the water has been sent

to find and raise it up

from somewhere so deep inside the earth

not even flowers can remember.


Source: Poetry (December 2005)

  • Nature
  • Relationships
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Tony Hoagland
Tony Hoagland was born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and attended Williams College, the University of Iowa, and the University of Arizona. His poetry is known for its acerbic, witty take on contemporary life. He taught at the University of Houston and in the Warren Wilson MFA program.

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