This is one of the most beautiful poems I’ve ever read.
Distant Regard by Tony Hoagland
If I knew I would be dead by this time next year
I believe I would spend the months from now till then
writing thank-you notes to strangers and acquaintances,
telling them, “You really were a great travel agent,”
or “I never got the taste of your kisses out of my mouth.”
or “Watching you walk across the room was part of my destination.”
It would be the equivalent, I think,
of leaving a chocolate wrapped in shiny foil
on the pillow of a guest in a hotel–
“Hotel of earth, where we resided for some years together,”
I start to say, before I realize it is a terrible cliche, and stop,
and then go on, forgiving myself in a mere split second
because now that I’m dying, I just go
forward like water, flowing around obstacles
and second thoughts, not getting snagged, just continuing
with my long list of thank-yous,
which seems to naturally expand to include sunlight and wind,
and the aspen trees which gleam and shimmer in the yard
as if grateful for being soaked last night
by the irrigation system invented by an individual
to whom I am quietly grateful.
Outside it is autumn, the philosophical season,
when cold air sharpens the intellect;
the hills are red and copper in their shaggy majesty.
The clouds blow overhead like governments and years.
It took me a long time to understand the phrase “distant regard,”
but I am grateful for it now,
and I am grateful for my heart,
that turned out to be good, after all;
and grateful for my mind,
to which, in retrospect, I can see
I have never been sufficiently kind.
For more information about Tony Hoagland, please read his obituary.
Thanks to Alison for sharing these beautiful poems far and wide.
4 responses to “Poem of the Week: Distant Regard by Tony Hoagland via Alison McGhee”
You love this poem the same way I do, Tessa.
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Thank you for sharing this. There is much to love about Tony Hoagand’s last collection. It is filled with the wisdom of a dying man reflecting on the beauty of the life behind him. I first came across his poetry in the New Yorker magazine, and wish I had discovered him earlier. Thanks for sharing this wonderful blog.- Chris
I read his poems over and over. They really touch me and remind me of the importance of forgiveness and kindness to oneself and others.