"Confinement"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
June 24 2008 8:31 AM

"Confinement"

Listen to Tony Hoagland read this poem.


The dictator in the turban died and was replaced by a dictator in a Western business suit. Now that he looked like all the other leaders, observers

detected a certain relaxing of tensions. Something in the air
said the weather was changing,
and if you looked up at the sky and squinted, you could almost see

the faint dollar signs embossed upon the big, migrating clouds,
sucking up cash in one place, raining it down in another.
Meanwhile I was trying to get across town,

to my brother-in-law's funeral,
speeding through yellow lights, arriving late,
taking my place in a line of idling cars

outside the cemetery. Having to wait with everyone else
because no one had gotten the code number
to punch into the keypad on the automatic gate.

Cold day. The neighborhood, ugly and poor,
like a runny nose,
a reminder of misery in the world.

And Barney was dead, big PartyBoy Barney,
famous for his appetite and lack of self-control—
—now, needing an extra-large coffin,

as if he was taking his old friends
Drinking Eating and Smoking
into the hole with him.

—So what hovered over the proceedings that afternoon
was a mixture of grief and vindication—
like a complex sauce the pallbearers and aunts

were floating in, each one thinking,
 "Oh God! I told him this would happen!"

Later, at the reception, I saw my beautiful ex-wife,
wearing a simple black dress
that showed off her beautiful neck

standing next to a guy I would like to call
her future second ex-husband.
A long time since she and I had been extinct,

but still I found inside myself an urge
to go over and tell her one more time
it wasn't my fault—

and struggled for a moment with that
ridiculous desire.
Upstairs, looking for a place to be alone,

I found a television, turned on and abandoned in a room,
churning out pictures and light against a wall—

Images of crowds, marching down streets, past
burning, overturned cars; people in robes,
gathered outside embassies and throwing stones.

Even with the sound off,
not even knowing the name of the country,
I thought that I could understand

what they were protesting about,
what had made them so angry:

They wanted to be let out of the TV set;
They had been trapped in there, and they wanted out.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?