Hoagland Death Poem

570 Words3 Pages
This poem is filled with images of death. Not, however, the images one would presume to find in your classic poem about death. Here, Hoagland points out the death that is happening constantly and all around us. The death many choose to ignore, and that many don't even notice in the first place. It's more than just death that this poem grapples with though, it's also about the act of killing. Hoagland assesses the way in which we prioritize ethically some things over others, specifically in the context of middle class consumerist society. While doing this, he slips in the subtle assertion that you can't save everything, and that entirely ethical consumption isn’t possible in the world we live in. There's a hint of remorse because of it too.…show more content…
While many examples of killing in this poem aren't related to consumption, the central image is. Candlelight, the title of the poem, falls on the steak that is being used to save a marriage. This encompasses the death of a cow, the death of a section of rainforest, and the thinning of the atmosphere, which will inevitably affect generations to come. In Hoagland's example, it will affect "your grandson on vacation" and burn the cells of his scalp. Here, we see in a somewhat ridiculous illustration the impossibility of consumption under capitalism being harmless. Hoagland uses this image to assert that even mainstream activities such as going out to dinner with your spouse are harmful to something in some way. "Still you slice/the sirloin into pieces/and feed each other/on silver forks." "Candlelight" is a poem that analyzes the flaws of the world that we live in. Many of these flaws are impossible to change. Hoagland writes what could be a coming-to-terms with that, with the constant and unavoidable killing happening all around us, happening because of us. He leaves with a somewhat disappointing image, that of the pianist playing on the tusks of a slain elephant. The pianist doesn't care at all for the elephant, and plays on as if the elephant had told him it could do so. He is trapped in the willful ignorance Hoagland believes we all must participate in to get through
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