From This Height

Cold wind comes out of the white hills
and rubs itself against the walls of the condominium   
with an esophogeal vowel sound,
and a loneliness creeps
into the conversation by the hot tub.

We don’t deserve pleasure
just as we don’t deserve pain,
but it’s pure sorcery the way the feathers of warm mist   
keep rising from the surface of the water
to wrap themselves around a sculpted
clavicle or wrist.

It’s not just that we are on
the eighth story of the world
looking out through glass and steel
with a clarity of vision
in which imported coffee and
a knowledge of French painting
                                              are combined,

but that we are atop a pyramid
of all the facts that make this possible:   
the furnace that heats the water,   
the truck that hauled the fuel,
the artery of highway
blasted through the mountains,

the heart attack of the previous owner,   
the history of Western medicine   
that failed to save him,
the successful development of tourism,
the snow white lotions that counteract the chemistry   
of chlorine upon skin—our skin.

Down inside history’s body,
the slaves are still singing in the dark;   
the roads continue to be built;
the wind blows and the building grips itself   
in anticipation of the next strong gust.

So an enormous act of forgetting is required   
simply to kiss someone
or to open your mouth
for the fork of high-calorie paté
someone is raising to your lips,

which, considering the price,   
it would be a sin   
not to enjoy.

Tony Hoagland, “From This Height” from Donkey Gospel. Copyright © 1998 by Tony Hoagland. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.
Source: Donkey Gospel (1998)
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