A Message from Tony Hoagland

By Jeffrey Harrison

I got an email from Tony just now
though he’s been dead for a year and a half,
and in the instant before my rational brain
told me it was spam, I felt the thrill
of seeing his name pop up in my inbox,
the dopamine rush that he was writing me
from beyond the grave. And when I clicked
on his name to open the message, the body
of the email consisted only of my first name
followed by an exclamation mark
(as though he was excited to be writing me)
and, under that, a compressed link
in the electric blue that indicated
it was live. My giddy finger slid
the cursor over it, to see what Tony
was sending me—maybe instead of
infecting my computer with malware
that would harvest my data and require me
to pay a huge ransom in cryptocurrency,
the link would take me to a web page
where I could find all the poems
Tony has written since he died.
I paused a moment and thought about
what those poems would be like,
but my imagination failed me. Then
I clicked “delete,” and went into my trash
and deleted the message again,
which made me feel timid and puny,
as though, like D. H. Lawrence
and his snake, I’d missed my chance
with one of the lords of life.

Jeffrey Harrison is the author of six books of poetry, including Between Lakes (Four Way Books, 2020) and Into Daylight (Tupelo Press, 2014), winner of the Dorset Prize. A former NEA, Guggenheim, and Bogliasco Fellow, his poems have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, in- cluding Best American Poetry and the Pushcart Prize volumes. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Paris Review, The Yale Review, The Hudson Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, Literary Imagination, and elsewhere.

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