Reasons to survive November

By Tony Hoagland

November like a train wreck –

as if a locomotive made of cold

had hurtled out of Canada

and crashed into a million trees,

flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.

The sky is a thick, cold gauze –

but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,

and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,

full of luminous red barns.

– Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,

the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,

and roll around in her foldout bed.

I know there are some people out there

who think I am supposed to end up

in a room by myself

with a gun and a bottle full of hate,

a locked door and my slack mouth open

like a disconnected phone.

But I hate those people back

from the core of my donkey soul

and the hatred makes me strong

and my survival is their failure,

and my happiness would kill them

so I shove joy like a knife

into my own heart over and over

and I force myself toward pleasure,

and I love this November life

where I run like a train

deeper and deeper

into the land of my enemies.

TONY HOAGLAND will deliver this year’s University at Buffalo English Department Silverman Memorial Reading at 8 p.m. Friday in 250 Baird Hall on UB’s North Campus. This poem is from his 2003 collection “What Narcissism Means to Me” (Graywolf Press, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He teaches at the University of Houston and Warren Wilson College.