Quieting the “Chatter of Desire”

hoagland

In our times we face some stark realities. One of them is disappointment. It’s small fry, really, but to many of us it’s a daily gnawing from inside, not to mention a reminder of a selfishness we can’t quite quell.

The ego, I guess. Or id, maybe. It likes to say things like, “Why me?” It likes to feel sorry for itself. And it tries like hell to be sympathetic and empathetic, but more often comes across as simply pathetic. Disappointed.

But disappointment, like most things, has its up side. I think of Tony Hoagland’s lines:

That’s what I like about disappointment:
the way it slows you down,
when the querulous insistent chatter of desire
goes dead calm

Then I feel a little better, because that’s what poetry does. Forces you to look at something from another angle. Slowing down is a good thing, right? We frequently talk about it, in normal times, but seldom indulge it.

And what about that “querulous insistent chatter of desire” we’ve never been able to name (until Hoagland helped)? Isn’t it the opposite of disappointment? Isn’t it as bad or worse?

Well, now that you put it that way, maybe so. Especially if you were Tony Hoagland, a man who, later in life, would have as much to celebrate as to lament.

So, as you read “Disappointment,” you might ask yourself this: Has my life in recent weeks been soaked in self-indulging disappointment, or am I seeing my petty desires a little better for what they are? Petty. And in some cases pitiful.

I don’t know. Maybe the answer will some day make you a stronger and better person. Then again, maybe not. Disappointment, after all, is a pernicious and ubiquitous foe.

 

Disappointment
Tony Hoagland

I was feeling pretty religious
standing on the bridge in my winter coat
looking down at the gray water:
the sharp little waves dusted with snow,
fish in their tin armor.

That’s what I like about disappointment:
the way it slows you down,
when the querulous insistent chatter of desire
goes dead calm

and the minor roadside flowers
pronounce their quiet colors,
and the red dirt of the hillside glows.

She played the flute, he played the fiddle
and the moon came up over the barn.
Then he didn’t get the job, —
or her father died before she told him
that one, most important thing—

and everything got still.

It was February or October
It was July
I remember it so clear
You don’t have to pursue anything ever again
It’s over
You’re free
You’re unemployed

You just have to stand there
looking out on the water
in your trench coat of solitude
with your scarf of resignation
lifting in the wind.

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