Dialectical Materialism


Mash Ghasem
by Mash Ghasem

A recent work by American poet Tony Hoagland, from his latest book “Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty

I would love to translate this into Persian (farsi as Ari likes), anyone for a group translation?

Dialectical Materialism

By Tony Hoagland

I was thinking about dialectical materialism at the supermarket,

strolling among the Chilean tomatoes and the Filipino pineapples,

admiring the Washington-state apples stacked in perfect pyramid displays
by the ebony man from Zimbabwe wearing the Chicago Bulls t-shirt.

I was seeing the whole produce section
as a system of cross-referenced signifiers
in a textbook of historical economics

and the fine spray that misted the vegetables
was like the cool mist of style imposed on meaning.

It was one of those days
when interpretation is brushing its varnish over everything

when even the birds are speaking complete sentences

and the sun is a brassy blond novelist of immense accomplishment
dictating her new blockbuster
to a stenographer who types at the speed of light
and publishes each page as fast as it is written.

There was cornbread rising in the bakery department
and in its warm aroma I believed that I could smell
the exhaled breath of vanished Iroquois,
their journey west and
delicate withdrawal into the forests,

whereas by comparison
the coarse-grained wheat baguettes

seemed to irrepressibly exude
the sturdy sweat and labor of eighteenth-century Europe.

My god there is so much sorrow in the grocery store!
You would have to be high
on the fumes of the piped-in pan flutes
of commodified Peruvian folk music

not to be driven practically crazy
with awe and shame,
not to weep at the scale of subjugated matter:

the ripped-up etymologies of kiwi fruit and bratwurst,
the roads paved with dead languages,
the jungles digested by foreign money.

It’s the owners, I said to myself;
it’s the horrible juggernaut of progress;

but the cilantro in my hand
opened up its bitter minty ampoule underneath my nose

and the bossa nova muzak charmed me like a hypnotist
and he pretty cashier with the shaved head and nose ring
said, Have a nice day.

as I burst with my groceries through the automatic doors
into the open air,

where I found myself in a giant parking lot
at a mega-mall outside of Minneapolis,

where in row E 87
a Ford Escort from Mankato
had just had a fender-bender with a Honda from Miami;

and these personified portions of my heart, the drivers,
were standing there
in the gathering Midwestern granular descending dusk

waiting for the troopers to fill out the accident report,

with the rotating red light of the squad car
whipping in circles above them,
splashing their shopped-out middle-aged faces
with war paint the hue of cherry Gatorade

and each of them was thinking
how with dialectical materialism, accidents happen:

how at any minute,
convenience can turn
into a kind of trouble you never wanted.


more from Mash Ghasem
Anahid Hojjati

Read about Tony Hoagland. He is a very accomplished poet

by Anahid Hojjati on

Tony Hoagland

Born on November 19, 1953, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Tony Hoagland is the author of witty, poingnant poems that comment on contemporary American life and culture.

His books include Unincorporated Personas in the Late Honda Dynasty (Graywolf Press, 2010), What Narcissism Means to Me (2003), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Donkey Gospel (1998), which received the James Laughlin Award; and Sweet Ruin (1992), chosen by Donald Justice for the 1992 Brittingham Prize in Poetry and winner of the Zacharis Award from Emerson College.

Hoagland's other honors include two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a fellowship to the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the O. B. Hardison Prize for Poetry and Teaching from the Folger Shakespeare Library, the 2008 Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers magazine, as well as the Poetry Foundation's 2005 Mark Twain Award in recognition of his contribution to humor in American poetry.

In 2002, the American Academy of Arts and Letters praised the poet's work with a citation stating, "Tony Hoagland's imagination ranges thrillingly across manners, morals, sexual doings, kinds of speech both lyrical and candid, intimate as well as wild."

He currently teaches at the University of Houston and Warren Wilson College.

Ari Siletz

"...these personified portions of my heart..."

by Ari Siletz on

Great idea Mash Ghasem! For my part I will read the poem a few times and let it sink in. The nuances take a few days to sort themsleves out. Then maybe  Farsi/Persian words will present themselves.


"...and these personified portions of my heart..."

Never thought of other people in just that way. Sinply brilliant!