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My Lunch with Tony Hoagland
by Paul Hostovsky

He couldn’t not
flirt with the waitress
who was sexy with
bad teeth. She reminded me of
his best poems,
the way they smile at you through
the pain. He wore
a gray baseball hat
like he was rooting for gray,
like there was too much
black or white in the world,
too much win or lose,
and much too much
rain or shine. We talked about
Dean Young
and Larry Levis
and Jimi Hendrix
and Buddhism and capitalism and narcissism,
and the corrugated green
pickles they placed at the edge
of our plates crunched softly in our mouths
as the conversation turned
to sadness. He kept saying
he was lucky. I kept thinking how
his poems make me wish I’d written them.
So it felt a little like
plagiarism—the waitress
coming back with our credit cards
and giving me his credit card
by mistake, and me signing my name
to his lunch while he was
piddling in the men’s room—
and me calling it my lunch with
Tony Hoagland.



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