by Tony Hoagland
'Success is the worst possible thing that could happen
to a man like you,' she said,
'because the shiny shoes, and flattery
and the self-
lubricating slime of affluence would mean
you’d never have to face your failure as a human being.'
There was a rude remark I could have made back to her right then
and I watched it go by like a bright blue sailboat
on a long gray river of silence,
watching it until it disappeared around the bend
while I smiled and listened to her talk,
thinking it was good to let myself be stabbed by her little spears,
because I wanted to see what I was made of
besides fear and the desire to be liked
by every person on the goddamn face of the earth —
To tell the truth, I felt a certain satisfaction in taking it,
letting her believe that I was just a little bird
opening my mouth and swallowing
the medicine she wanted to administer
— a mixture of good advice combined with slow-acting poison.
Is it strange to say that there was something beautiful
in the sight of her running wild, cut loose in an
epileptic fit of telling the truth?
And anyway, she was right about me,
that I am prone to certain misconceptions,
that I should never get so big or fat that I
can’t look down and see my own naked dirty feet,
which is why I kept smiling and smiling as she talked —.
It was a beautiful day. I felt like crying.
I knew that if I could succeed at being demolished,
I could succeed at anything.