I know it's hard, but try to miss me.
And meanwhile, here's some Tony Hoagland to keep you happy:
WHAT NARCISSISM MEANS TO ME
There’s Socialism and Communism and Capitalism,
and there’s Feminism and Hedonism,
and there’s Catholicism and Bipedalism and Consumerism,
but I think Narcissism is the system
that means the most to me;
and Sylvia said that in Neal’s case
narcissism represented a heroic achievement in positive thinking.
who calls everybody Sweetie pie
whether she cares for them or not,
Ann lit a cigarette and said, Only miserable people will tell you
that love has to be deserved,
and when I heard that, a distant chime went off for me,
remembering a time when I believed
that I could simply live without it.
Neal had grilled the corn and sliced the onions
into thick white disks,
and piled the wet green pickles
up in stacks like coins
and his chef’s cap was leaning sideways like a mushroom cloud.
Then Ethan said that in his opinion,
if you’re going to mess around with self-love
you shouldn’t just rush into a relationship,
and Sylvia was weeping softly now, looking down
into her wine cooler and potato chips,
and then the hamburgers were done, just as
the sunset in the background started
cutting through the charcoal clouds
exposing their insides – black,
streaked dark red,
like a slab of scorched, rare steak,
delicious but unhealthy,
or, depending on your perspective,
unhealthy but delicious,
-- the way that, deep inside the misery
of daily life,
love lies bleeding.
TWO TRAINSThen there was that song called "Two Trains Running",
a Mississippi blues they play on late-night radio,
that program after midnight called FM In The AM,
-well, I always thought it was about trains.
Then somebody told me it was about what a man and woman do
under the covers of their bed, moving back and forth
like slow pistons in a shiny black locomotive,
the rods and valves trying to stay coordinated
long enough that they will "get to the station"
at the same time. And one of the trains
goes out of sight into the mountain tunnel,
but when they break back into the light
the other train has somehow pulled ahead,
the two trains running like that, side by side,
first one and then the other, with the fierce white
bursts of smoke puffing from their stacks,
into a sky so sharp and blue you want to die.
So then for a long time I thought the song was about sex.
But then Mack told me that all train songs
are really about Jesus, about how the second train
is shadowing the first, so He walks in your footsteps
and He watches you from behind, He is running with you,
He is your brake man and your engineer,
your coolant and your coal,
and He will catch you when you fall,
and when you stall He will push you through
the darkest mountain valley, up the steepest hill,
and the rough chuff chuff of His fingers on the washboard
and the harmonica woo woo is the long soul cry by which He
pulls you through the bloody tunnel of the world.
So then I thought the two trains song was a gospel song.
Then I quit my job in Santa Fe and Sharon drove
her spike heel through my heart
and I got twelve years older and Dean moved away,
and now I think the song might be about good-byes --
because we are not even in the same time zone,
or moving at the same speed, or perhaps even
headed toward the same destination --
forgodsakes, we are not even trains!
What grief it is to love some people like your own
blood and then to see them simply disappear;
to feel time bearing us away
one boxcar at a time.
And sometimes, sitting in my chair
I can feel the absence stretching out in all directions --
like the deaf, defoliated silence
just after a train has thundered past the platform,
just before the mindless birds begin to chirp again
--and the wildflowers that grow beside the tracks
wobble wildly on their little stems,
then gradually grow still and stand
motherless and vertical in the middle of everything.
- from What Narcissism Means to Me (Graywolf, 2003)