Why Death is Important to the Future

Off the Hook

I’m sure it has happened to you too: because you feel bad about needing to postpone a lunch or dinner engagement, you put off phoning. Sometimes, however, serendipity is on your side as you procrastinate - the phone rings and your friend cancels. Whooeee – you’re off the hook.

Yesterday, there were a dozen items on my to-do list, many of which were time consuming and I didn’t have a single idea in my head for today’s post that wouldn’t require some research, nor could I figure out when I would find the time to write it whenever I did decide on a topic.

Taking a quick break to check email in mid-morning, I found a note from Mary Jamison who doesn’t blog, but is a regular contributor in the Comments sections here. She had forwarded a poem she’d found at Garrison Keillor’s website, The Writer’s Almanac, which, wrote Mary, she thought would be perfect for Time Goes By.

Whooeee – she’s right, and I’m off the hook.

It is titled, History of Desire, written by Tony Hoagland. I didn’t request permission to print this, so if you are so inclined, you can purchase the book in which it was published - Sweet Ruin from the University of Wisconsin Press or the bookseller of your choice.

When you're seventeen, and drunk
on the husky, late-night flavor
of your first girlfriend's voice
along the wires of the telephone

what else to do but steal
your father's El Dorado from the drive,
and cruise out to the park on Driscoll Hill?
Then climb the county water tower

and aerosol her name in spraycan orange
a hundred feet above the town?
Because only the letters of that word,
DORIS, next door to yours,

in yard-high, iridescent script,
are amplified enough to tell the world
who's playing lead guitar
in the rock band of your blood.

You don't consider for a moment
the shock in store for you in 10 A.D.,
a decade after Doris, when,
out for a drive on your visit home,

you take the Smallville Road, look up
still scorched upon the reservoir.
This is how history catches up—

by holding still until you
bump into yourself.
What makes you blush, and shove
the pedal of the Mustang

almost through the floor
as if you wanted to spray gravel
across the features of the past,
or accelerate into oblivion?

Are you so out of love that you
can't move fast enough away?
But if desire is acceleration,
experience is circular as any

Indianapolis. We keep coming back
to what we are—each time older,
more freaked out, or less afraid.
And you are older now.

You should stop today.
In the name of Doris, stop.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone gives us a story that proves again why the internet is such a good thing in History Catches Up.]


Oh, delightful......thank you.

Ah, so true. History catches up. I love the poem.

Wonderful. I always wonder why anyone would write their names on water towers. Do you remember years ago when driving on a family trip, stopping at a rest stop or a conveniece store on the side of the highway; there in graffiti on the restroom stall door or wall would be:

"Henry loves Doris"

Or such sentiments usually written in lipstick or nail polish.


PS: I guess "Facebook" Twitter" "Cell Phone IMs" etc have replaced such grafitti and serve somewhat the same purpose.

For a gal who went to high school a block from the water tower in a small Iowa town, this is so very evocative!

Sadly I never inspired foot high letters on the tower. I should have tried a little harder.

That's a very nice post for someone feeling the dreaded writer's block. Thank you.

This time it worked. Yesterday, the system told me it couldn't post because I lacked a valid URL. I'm glad it's back accepting my comments again.

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