Tony Hoagland is the author of four books of poetry, several chapbooks, and one book of essays, Real Sofistakashun. His most recent full-length collections are Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty and What Narcissism Means to Me, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His recognitions include the Jackson Poetry Prize, the O.B. Hardison, Jr. Poetry Prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Mark Twain Award for humor in American poetry. He teaches at the University of Houston and Warren Wilson College's low residency MFA program.
The corn-chip engineer gets a bright idea,
and talks to the corn-chip executive
and six months later at the factory they begin subtracting
a few chips from every bag,
but they still call it on the outside wrapper,
The Big Grab,
so the concept of Big is quietly modified
to mean More Or Less Large, or Only Slightly
Less Big Than Before.
Confucius said this would happen—
that language would be hijacked and twisted
by a couple of tricksters from the Business Department
and from then on words would get crookeder and crookeder
until no one would know how to build a staircase,
or to size up a horse by its teeth
or when it is best to shut up.
We live in that time that he predicted.
Nothing means what it says,
and it says it all the time.
Out on Route 28, the lights blaze all night
on a billboard of a beautiful girl
covered with melted cheese—
See how she beckons to the river of late-night cars!
See how the tipsy drivers swerve,
under the breathalyzer moon!
In a story whose beginning I must have missed,
without a name for the thing
I can barely comprehend I desire,
I speak these words that do not know
where they're going.
No wonder I want something more or less large
and salty for lunch.
No wonder I stare into space while eating it.
from Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honday Dynasty
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