Poems by 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.
And then, all’s for naught. The worried inseams
on the cuffs of ladies’ skirts. The good dishes,
handwashed and stacked like small towers in the white
cupboards across homes spread thin as overworked
dough through the cookie-cutter tracts of the suburbs.
The bodies’ coughs and spasms, each visit to the clinic,
minus the minutes time was a train too quick to catch,
the addition and subtraction, the compounded interest
and equity credit. All of it, really. Like the stuff worth
holding, what we carry in our arms like fragile packaging,
like when I was five and the world was wrought fresh
as I could make it, alone in a field of wild strawberries
as the old oaks every so often dropped their acorns onto
the hard ground, the thuds consistent as the wind’s pattern
as it rushed over the hills in that Pennsylvania town as if
it had memorized the very curve and lilt of the landscape,
as if it was so in love with the region it urged itself over and
over onto the topography, back and forth through the thicket,
consistent as a metronome, as if it needed to know it cold, like
a fact, the bend and sway of beauty in the grasses. Even that.
So here we are, where trees
have rooted again in soot,
where the few smoldering coals
will fizzle in the rain that looms
in the nimbostratus coming
in from the east. It is enough
to say we did all we could
with our hands here, that we
took in the small child,
the lost dog. That we noticed
the mourning dove’s long song
in the brush. It is enough to say
we opened the aria of our mouths
and that mostly, we communicated
some wonder, some luck of the draw,
fallen ash giving way to rich
nitrate soil, chaparral. As we
watched cities fall we too
will rise, sometimes softer,
but more often than not jarring
as headlights, the future catching
us off guard while we were busy
in the domestic, the memory like
a dance; dinner, then the dishes
long soak at the sink. Mornings,
we drank our coffee black.
Each afternoon, a chore. We lived
however we could bare it. Together.
So what could be left for us,
living through a world on fire,
burning only because it needed to hear
the strike of its own match. It is
enough to know we got this far. It is
enough to believe we can make it.
I volley and parse this starting.
Eventually, we all end up. So
let us go there now, the line
towed, or jumped over, a track
and field, red dust, a pillow
rising. The feet alone are worth
Bipedaling from this to that.
Let us praise them, jaundice
and all, the big toe, animal
clawing each slow crawl
to the left. I lean that way,
anyway, though lately I admit
to discarding the phenomenon
of bipartisanship altogether.
How many trappings are there?
Shall I count the ways the body
curves on its axis to distance
any navigation? The owl knows
better, harnessing its boots
on the great pine’s limbpoints.
Hoo is the name of the great wind
coming now from the west.
But where comes this yuck
and stink, this puss of the dead?
It’s all the hallowing before
the harrow. And I want today
to listen for tree-sorrow. I want
to dirt-lie, to cut it seam down.
Imagine. Both then and now. A
truncal argument. Or a grammatical
one. I’ve chained my making free.
I saw it all. And now I know I’ve seen.
A Pattern Manifestation, a Search Engine
A collision. A molecular drive-by. A decimal.
A high decibel dissemination. Then, decimation.
Immediate action. A misunderstanding. A quest.
A circus maximus and a bloody death. A behest.
A synchronicity. Blessed, an ethereal prayer to ether.
You want to meet her. You want to know where
he goes. You want to know the actuarial timetable
for insurance purposes. You want to remember
what we will soon forget, only to look up to a miracle
of snow, or sleet, or rain. There is weather whether
or not. The magic 8 ball. The yes or no, or try again
later. The inconvenience and the anxious tick.
The cerebral hum. The insistent itch. The spider’s
intricate design, magnified. It sticks. It’s gummy
like play-doh, old as dirt. It didn’t exist until it did
and now there’s no reversal of course. I don’t know
about you but I’m here for the long haul. I’ll plug
away at the veritable void. I’ll call to knock at its door.
I’ll haul away the irrelevant, scroll through all the slides.
At the end of the list is emptiness. I’ll click yes, subscribe.
The House of Teeth and Meat
While here, we might as well suck
the meat from the bones. Let our teeth
clack against the ribs, the small nodules
of cartilage covered in gristle and fat
curled like pearled orbs under the tongue.
Waste nothing. Hunger haunts us like
the ghosts tethered to every shadow.
Come to the kitchen, create something
that will feed us. The cupboards and
pantry are sparse. Try not to worry.
If you hear a knock at the door, open it
confidently. Nothing goes wrong here
if you don’t let it. Outside, the locusts
fan over the pastures. The clouds
are thick with want. When floods
come we gather around the table
to break the bread and drink the wine.
Cast your pearls to the swine. Ignore
what you have been told. What is
mine is yours. What is yours is mine.
© Alicia Hoffman