Grammar by Tony Hoagland

This poem is just fabulous. If you have never read anything by this contemporary poet and teacher then I am sorry! This is a good one to start with, but I advise that you sprint out and retrieve at least one of his three wonderful volumes immediately (Sweet Ruin, Donkey Gospel, What Narcissism Means to Me). He writes witty, ironic, intelligent poems that are just thoroughly entertaining. Among the awards he has won is the 2005 Mark Twain Award that is given by the Poetry Foundation in recognition of a poet’s contribution to humor in American poetry. To those of you fortunate enough to receive instruction from this great writer in the poetry program at the University of Houston, I am unequivocally emerald with envy!


Maxine, back from a weekend with her boyfriend,
smiles like a big cat and says
that she’s a conjugated verb.
She’s been doing the direct object
with a second person pronoun named Phil,
and when she walks into the room,
everybody turns:

some kind of light is coming from her head.
Even the geraniums look curious,
and the bees, if they were here, would buzz
suspiciously around her hair, looking
for the door in her corona.
We’re all attracted to the perfume
of fermenting joy,

we’ve all tried to start a fire,
and one day maybe it will blaze up on its own.
In the meantime, she is the one today among us
most able to bear the idea of her own beauty,
and when we see it, what we do is natural:
we take our burned hands
out of our pockets,and clap.

Photo from sock.xchng

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