Alexa Plays Miles Davis, poems Alicia Hoffman
Originally from Pennsylvania, Alicia Hoffman now lives, writes, and teaches in Rochester, New York. The author of two full-length collections, Railroad Phoenix (Kelsay Books 2017) and Like Stardust in the Peat Moss (Aldrich Press 2013), her work has appeared in a variety of journals, including The Penn Review, SOFTBLOW, Radar Poetry, Redactions: Poetry & Poetics, Up The Staircase Quarterly, A-Minor Magazine, and elsewhere. Nominated numerous times for the Pushcart Prize, she holds an MFA in Poetry from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. Find out more at: www.aliciamariehoffman.com.
Alexa Plays Miles Davis
as I stand over the kitchen island, snapping
wooden ends from asparagus, smashing garlic
into a fine paste. As the sax crescendos water
rolls to a boil and this is my day, my half glass
of cabernet working magic in my veins, shrill
note of a job de-escalating, transitioning into
evenings I take off professional trappings
and let myself go loose to lose myself
in music I don’t know anything about except
instrumental jazz is something I like, a privilege
to enjoy, this notion of liking without knowing,
because I can’t tell you why this balancing act
of chaos and clarity, confusion and clear delineation
moves me, or why I am allowed to pamper myself
in simple pleasures while the world loses itself
in a kind of blue that keeps me paralyzed. Stuttering,
Alexa skips to a different song, as though intentions
are never enough, as if a request is more prayer
than action, as a new age tune echoes a drumbeat,
begins a synthesized sonorous vocal track, a button
pushed in a studio replicating what used to be real.
Who is to say what makes anything authentic?
What simulacrum does not intuit the shadows
true shape beyond the cave? I am in my kitchen,
and in South East Asia the same sun shines
as the Rohingya flee from genocide. Right now,
someone thinks only survival as I waste vegetable
scraps and play act at wonder, as the world’s music
barrels in and voices in their anguish keep me singing.
To Save My Life
Sometimes I can’t write a poem to save my life.
To save my life I’ve burned the ends of hours
lining my mind with lines, my memory a sieve
I dream of words that will continue to help me
continue, to shore up the dock in the sea
of this wide-open life—words floating
in the offing like life rafts in the blue horizon
as I wake each day drowning but for this
new word in the distance I need to near,
as if a few syllables were sunk some time ago
into a pocket of my personal sea as I forgot
to pay attention, as I was rounding a mark,
maybe, or maybe as I was on my way to losing
control of the helm of the boat that is this life
strayed off course—sails flail in the wind
as I struggle to lean starboard, grasp the hull—
to save my life I listen to the sounds, whispers
on the wind like sirens singing—to save my life
again, a new word swimming in the distance.
Episteme || Doxa || Gnosis
I love my little house. I know this
because I’ve walked its four corners
in slow motion, made note of doors
in need of stain, faucets encircled
with rust, tubs in need of new caulk.
But tonight, the wind is picking up,
and I am thinking too much
of myself. I don’t know much
of the world. If I could, I would
gather its distinctive parts in my hands.
I would love them so hard. I’ve heard
it said music is heard between the notes.
If true, I want my song silently rising
over the eves and cornices of this house
I love so intimately, out past streetlights
blinking on as dusk replaces day.
I want my love to move us, to carry us
in it, past the harbor where pleasure
boats dock on the crest of Lake Ontario,
to sail us right into the heart of weather.
I want us comfortable in the drafts,
sifting through the seas, embracing
it all regardless of mistakes. The countless
mistakes. If I lie on my back and begin
to name every error passing like a cloud
over my head I will only begin to cleave
this parting and going and making.
I know when we go away from here
this planet will continue creating
or it will not. I know I don’t know.
I know I like the sound of solipsistic
as much as I am, but that even this
in the scheme of things is enough.
That it will amount to anything
is another dream—vaporizing tonight
near the windowsill as a pot of water
begins to roll to a boil and I dream
in a fleeting moment the very field
of clover I discovered as a child
when the whole world knew more
than ever what I thought of it
and decided to gift me a genesis
of green stalked leaves in threes
and one with four like a miracle in vitro.
It is hope we continue to continue for.
I’ve been reading a book about the history of humans.
Spoiler alert: war, famine, disease, death. Mesopotamia
to modern day: religion, ignorance, the conquerors have
what the conquered do not. Not a student of history
I delight in the idiosyncrasies of imaginative names:
Gilgamesh, Siddhartha, Trotsky, Lenin. Genghis Khan,
Muhammed, Tutankhamen, Guevara. I haven’t finished
the book. The book, I believe, has no end, though humans
are fond of hypotheticals, systemic of overworked
hypothalamuses, I assume, so we use examples: Nuclear
annihilation, climactic catastrophe, asteroids, event horizons,
the impending singularity. We wonder what it means to die,
to return, to be greeted at the door to heaven with a boatload
of nubile virgins, to Gabriel’s Gates, to the afterlife we choose
and by choosing lose something necessary needed in our language,
some isthmus of imagination, pinnacle of evolution, missing hinge
on a much-needed door—a bolt of cloth, a mural painted on muslin,
the fine workmanship of a clay pot, jade rooted in the axis. Geometric
squares on the floor of the mosque. Or perhaps, the ellipses of earth,
the galaxies beyond, the cultural revolution of planets and the planets
and moons behind what we find, and meanwhile, the small acts
of opening, here, the slow unfolding of peony blossoms in late June,
the quick fullness of them till they fall, the twin image of the lungs
inside the cave of the body rising, releasing a scattering of dust
swirling over the precipice of our breath as we walk each morning
a bit further down the road into a story that forever is the future.
Double Sonnet w| Late Stage Capitalism Ending at the Office
Along the northern border, this country
gathers people in its slate colored streets,
in its bus depots and its big box stores
advertising a BOGO on Chex Mix,
Nutri-Grain, plasma screen TVs lit like
X-mas. It’s a blaring emergency,
each minute a new crisis. Today breaks
news like ticker tape confetti as we
gather in our factories, lick our stamps,
as we post bills, hand our children what we
need for them to pass down, as it was passed
to us, from kin to kin, in communal
congregations. This country works to work
again, and again, a new day dawning.
So today, the planet tilts its axis,
the S&P plummets and, yes, again
morning traffic expectedly stops on
Alexander, cars caught like logs in jams
along an asphalt river, the cold rain
pelting windshields, commuters jarring wheels
to bleat horns in urgency as I am
able to breathe—a temporal blessing
for one moment—as roads, at least this one,
in this small section of life’s expressway,
allow me a break—a pause long enough
to dream in—before the congregation
begins again its endless worship, work
ship sailing still for that starlit office.
© Alicia Hoffman