Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 1
Spring 2010

[Two Poems]

Tony Hoagland

Walking in a Field I Find a Flower Like My Life

It is a big flower, like a heavy disk,
held aloft on a powerful stalk   
             that climbs to the level of my chest.

Its petals are a shaggy cuff 
                  of luminous brown-and-purple,
and inside that, another ring 
                 with inward-pointing spikes

and at the nucleus of that 
a tunnel twisting down and out of sight
into the deep core of the bulb.

Under the overcast sky,
filled with a queasy familiarity,

I felt I had been brought into the presence of that freakish vegetable
     for a purpose;         
half of me wanting to cover it up with a shirt;
half of me wanting to go closer.

So when I leaned and put my eye to that hole,  
and looked inside, how surprised do you think I was

to see a lot of little men down there,
climbing up and down ladders,
                 going in and out of doors?

One trying on a pair of sunglasses; 
One shouting into a phone?

What I felt was sorrow, bafflement, contempt
as I watched them rush their crumbs of narrative
from one location to the next. 

What was strange was that
they didn’t even know where they were living.

Not even the one who shaded his eyes now and then
to look up at the sky. 

Not even the one who looked like me,  
the man whose head was bent

at an awkward angle for his neck,
                      lying at the edge of the bed,

licking the vagina of a woman
with great attentiveness
because he wanted her to love him
                                      and let him back in.


As on Earth So in Heaven

Our Father, the Unavailable,  

please stay at work forever
and hardly notice us as usual

or punish us only with silence
because your good moods
are even more frightening

than when you show your wrath.
Our Mother, the Unreliable,
turn your face to the wall as usual

as the roast beef turns cold on the serving dish
as the bedside lamp remains

All the days of our life
we will tiptoe
past your doorway

As on earth so in heaven:
There too we will break
each other’s hearts

catch cancer scream
in silence without stopping
Live even after life

on a mountainside
of crumbled cookies
under a sky

the color of spilled milk.


“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury