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Proof of Life

Those small cuts and infections on my hands 
      from splinters and thorns
that show I have been working out of doors this week. 

The maddening peculiar purgatory
of Bob Seeger and the Silver Bullet Band 
      playing “Against the Wind”
continuously for three days inside my head
until on the fourth day it finally stops. 

The sound of clothes going around in the dryer
at the other end of the house. 

Wanting from a very young age
not to be a zombie sleepwalking through time. 

Leaving people, and being left by them.
This catch-and-release version of life. 

The kidnappers send out a photograph of the 
      hostage, grimacing,
holding up a newspaper from yesterday.
They call this “proof of life.” 

It means the captive is still alive. 

The day is blue with one high white cloud
like a pilgrim going to Canterbury. 

There is a bird half-hidden in the shrub outside.
Something he has eaten has made his 
       chest feathers red.

—Tony Hoagland

From Five Points, Volume 18, Number 1, Spring 2017.

Copyright © 2017 by Tony Hoagland.

Used with the permission of the author.

 

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Tony Hoagland (1953- ) is the author of five poetry collections, including Application for Release from the Dream (Graywolf Press, 2015). Hoagland was born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He earned a BA from the University of Iowa and an MFA from the University of Arizona.

Learn more about Tony Hoagland at The Poetry Foundation.