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  • Taryn Gammon

"Pleasure is a thing that also needs accomplishing"

It has been a busy week, and I woke up this morning with lines from Tony Hoagland's poem The Word rolling through my mind: a reminder that, "among your duties, pleasure is a thing that also needs accomplishing."


It is true that there are times when life is barreling ahead full speed, and there is no time (or opportunity, as the case may be during pandemic shutdown) for the activities that we know help sustain us. This poem, however, reminds us to look a little closer - towards things that are a little simpler and perhaps easily overlooked - as possible means of nourishment. "Nourishment," that is, as that which brings us into rather than out of our bodies and hearts, that feeds the parts of us most in need of restoration, healing, strengthening. Beauty, pleasure, enjoyment, and love -- these, the poem suggests, are not just essential, but also always available.

The question this poem leaves me with today is this: Can I take just a moment, right in the middle of the messiness of daily life, to notice and appreciate some small pleasure - a sip of tea, the light streaming through the window, the sound of the cat purring - and allow myself to receive it as the gift it is?

May you listen to those telegrams from your hearts today, dear ones, and find the sunlight that calls you.


The Word

Tony Hoagland


Down near the bottom of the crossed-out list of things you have to do today,

between “green thread” and “broccoli” you find that you have penciled “sunlight.”


Resting on the page, the word is beautiful, it touches you as if you had a friend


and sunlight were a present he had sent you from some place distant as this morning—to cheer you up,


and to remind you that, among your duties, pleasure is a thing


that also needs accomplishing. Do you remember? that time and light are kinds


of love, and love is no less practical than a coffee grinder


or a safe spare tire? Tomorrow you may be utterly without a clue

but today you get a telegram, from the heart in exile

proclaiming that the kingdom


still exists, the king and queen alive,

still speaking to their children,


—to any one among them who can find the time, to sit out in the sun and listen.

This poem was published in Sweet Ruin in 1992. Read more about Tony Hoagland at poetryfoundation.org

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