That one night in the middle of summer
when people move their chairs outside
and put their TVs on the porch
so the dark is full of murmuring blue lights.
We were drinking beer with the sound off,
watching the figures on the screen—
the bony blondes, the lean-jawed guys
who decorate the perfume and the cars—
the pretty ones
the merchandise is wearing this year.
Alex said, I wish they made a shooting gallery
using people like that.
Greg said, That woman has a Ph.D. in face.
Then we saw a preview for a movie
about a movie star who is
having a movie made about her,
and Boz said, This country is getting stupider every year.
Then Greg said that things were better in the sixties
and Rus said that Harold Bloom said
that Nietzsche and Nostalgia
is the blank check issued to a weak mind,
and Greg said,
They didn't have checks back then, stupid,
and Susan said It's too bad you guys can't get
Spellcheck for your brains.
Then Greg left and Margaret arrived
and a breeze carried honeysuckle fumes across the yard,
and Alex finished his quart of beer
and Boz leaned back in his chair
and the beautiful people on the TV screen
moved back and forth and back,
looking ery much now like shooting-gallery-ducks—
and we sat in quiet pleasure on the shore of night,
as a tide came in and turned and carried us,
folding chairs and all,
far out from the coastline of America
in a perfect commercial for our lives.
* * * * * * * * *
Tony Hoagland's poems and criticism have appeared in such publications as Poetry Magazine, Ploughshares, Agni, Threepenny Review, The Gettysburg Review, Ninth Letter, Southern Indiana Review, American Poetry Review, and Harvard Review. "Commercial for a Summer Night" was published in Hoagland's 2003 collection What Narcissism Means to Me, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.