Sweet Ruin

UNTITLED Tony DiRienzi


It's tiring, this endless revision
of our idea of a world
which is being continually revised--
as the painter good-naturedly lengthens
the ash on his model's cigarette--or,
if nature is his model, subtracts a leaf
from the birch undressing in the yard.

It's hard to remember
what we're practicing for
with this long succession of goodbyes
as each new understanding
goes out of date, like a window
turning into a mistake.

What we've learned is mostly 
not to be so smart--to believe,
as the hands believe
in only what they hold.
And we don't rush our explanations.
Instead, we tell a story:

Remember how the reptiles,
after generations of desire
to taste the yellow flowers,
thrust out wings one day and lifted from
      the ground?
Being birds by that time,
their appetites had changed,
But they kept on flying.

From the book Sweet Ruin by Tony Hoagland, @ 1992, The University of Wisconsin Press

Tony Hoagland

Possibly one of the very best poets of our generation, speaking with brilliant metaphor and language addressing the foremost concerns of our time. Wit, humor, satire, and mostly, deep humanity. We lost him to cancer today in 2018.