Posted by: Tom Triumph | November 24, 2010

119. At the Galleria Shopping Mall: Tony Hoagland

Thanksgiving is followed by Black Friday, and they have become intertwined in American tradition.

For those who have brushed off the religious meaning of Christmas that holiday has ceased having any meaning. In the past, it seemed to at least receive a token “goodwill towards men” sentiment and a nod towards giving being greater than receiving. People stopped, reflected and lied about how much they liked a gift in appreciation of the thought. Now, volume is king and the day seems to be a vague week of purchases, exchanges and returns, all for a bunch of cheap stuff we don’t even need (teachers: do we have enough mugs!). Even Santa–and the magic he brings–is nearly absent from the proceedings. Sigh.

But Thanksgiving has successfully co-opted shopping into the larger tradition of the weekend. From the frantic assembly of well-meaning but poorly planned expansive dinner, to the stale air of the house filled with grease while people sit comatose on the couch watching a blow-out of the Detroit Lions, senseless shopping for stuff nobody needs is now part of the holiday. Heck, it’s social. We did it with friends and families and a crush of others. Then we eat leftovers and laugh at our foolishness.

While out, buy a Tony Hoagland book like this one (perhaps not this one, but you know…).

Buy This Book (or something else good by Hoagland!)

This poem will go nice with any discussion about coming-of-age rituals and what it means to be an adult. Your students probably have phones and, perhaps, credit cards. What rites-of-passage still exist to them?

Enjoy, and bring the sandwiches.

At the Galleria Shopping Mall
Tony Hoagland

Just past the bin of pastel baby socks and underwear,
there are some 49-dollar Chinese-made TVs;

one of them singing news about a far-off war,
one comparing the breast size of an actress from Hollywood

to the breast size of an actress from Bollywood.
And here is my niece Lucinda,

who is nine and a true daughter of Texas,
who has developed the flounce of a pedigreed blonde

and declares that her favorite sport is shopping.
Today is the day she embarks upon her journey,

swinging a credit card like a scythe
through the meadows of golden merchandise.

Today is the day she stops looking at faces,
and starts assessing the labels of purses;

So let it begin. Let her be dipped in the dazzling bounty
and raised and wrung out again and again.

And let us watch.
As the gods in olden stories

turned mortals into laurel trees and crows
to teach them some kind of lesson,

so we were turned into Americans
to learn something about loneliness.

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