North Carolina today, it’s the birthplace of poet and writer Tony Hoagland, best known for poignant poems that comment on contemporary American life and culture. His collections include What Narcissism Means to Me, 2003 from which this poem comes. I think it’s one of the most romantic contemporary love poems I’ve read in recent times. It’s so ordinary, so simple so utterly heartbreaking. But it’s about loving somebody, loving them wholly and completely, their flaws and fascinations. Both in life and in death, forever seeing what drew you to them in the first place. This is:
By Tony Hoagland
She goes out to hang the wind chime
in her nightie and her work boots.
It’s six-thirty in the morning
and she’s standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,
wind chime in her left hand,
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she’s trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.
She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it—the wind blowing
through the sound the wind chime
because it wasn’t there.
No one, including me, especially anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving—
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands upon the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth
with the nail in it.