By Tony Hoagland

The kind Italian driver of the bus to Rome
invited her to his house—she was obviously
hungry—and gave her sandwiches
and raped her.

All those years ago—she smiles
while telling it—contemptuous,
of her younger self,

who drags behind her like a can.
Grammar is great
but who will write the sentence that includes
the story of the damage to her soul

and how she thought her bad Italian
was at fault, and
how it took a month for her to say
the word for what had happened
                                             in her head?

But that’s why
we invented the complex sentence,
so we could stand at a distance,

making slight adjustments
of the harness,
while following the twisty, ever-turning plot:

the loneliness of what we did;
the loneliness
of what was done to us.

(Today’s poem originally appeared in Ploughshares and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Tony Hoagland has published five books of poetry and prose about poetry with Graywolf Press.

Editor’s Note: Isn’t language amazing? How it unfolds, at once telling a story and creating the safe/dangerous/charged space that story can exist within? Tony Hoaglan is a true master of the sentence. He understands its complexities, knows how to manipulate the malleable material with his pen. How complex the sentence needs to be that can carry the weight of today’s message, how artful the poet who brings the sentence and the story to life.

Want to read more by and about Tony Hoagland?
Friday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be
The Poetry Foundation

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