Four Poems by Alicia Hoffman

Our Difficult Sunset

At least from a distance we can still believe
in each streak of amber, the red flare of another

distant explosion. In the past, we walked through
our lives the way we walked through the hallways

of our office jobs, our university appointments,
narrow-minded and oblivious to the tapestry

of the architecture, ignorant of the gift of brick
and cement that for so long attempted its hold

on us. This evening, the sky is the hue of heart-
break and peppermint gum, of the irretrievable

turmeric stain on my ringed finger, a leftover
from that afternoon I stood for hours over

a cooking site on the internet, mixed the tinctures
and powders, sliced the onions, chopped the carrots,

added it all to a broth boiling on the stove. If only
food could save us now that the world’s hard lines

are blurring and the continents slip like oil cloth
off the table. Sure. We were aware this could happen.

Even so, we stand now attentive and numb, shocked
to a stand-still, frozen to view what can only be described

miserably, as embers smoldering in the last light of the fire,
or like the planet shifting sure as a slipped disc, as if after

dinner it tidied up before entering a new room altogether,
the sort of company with the secret wish they’ve already left.


The Song and the Document

What is written in my possible future I have no way of knowing.
A body blanketed with tense script, a pensive eye for scrutiny.

I already revisit the choices I’ve made, ashamed at the fool I was,
young girl so eager for love she loosened its rope, flung herself

from its balconies. I forgive her not because I know who she became,
but because she was delirious, out of her mind, unaware each slip

in the knot hitched her to another consequence, a cinched conclusion.
I may be that same girl now, middle-aged and believing. Maybe I am

only a stand-in for next decade, when the real woman shows herself
in the mirror, casts the final net. Maybe she will bring in a catch

we have all three desired, glistening with shine, a jeweled treasure
by any measure. Who am I but the rise in the story, the part where

not much happens but the language of it, lending some allowance
to a patient reader. Meanwhile, the mast is being made underdeck,

the hoists are somewhere slathering themselves with oil. I can only
hope when the time comes, I can hear it, my own self a song set sailing.


Miracle Carp Says End Is Near

Says this weather is abysmal, Lake Michigan
near freezing, or already frozen, so the human

animals skid over its surface, go low and
bend their faces narcissus-like into the mirror

glass of ice, their reflection shiny as scales,
as rainbow arpeggios. Miracle Carp says

swim like you want to outlive the Anthropocene,
says buck up chump, bank on no one’s promises.

Miracle Carp says any day now the ice caps.
Any day now the flood. Miracle Carp says dreams

of mud are prophetic. Says embrace the amphibious
more often than not. Says if you want to live, live

in the moment the way Miracle Carp lives in the body
of the water, a miracle no one finds very miraculous,

a fact that has not escaped Miracle Carp. Miracle
Carp says most miracles make fools of us all, says

Mostly we are busy looking the wrong way, making
too much noise. Miracle Carp says anxiety defines

this age but it will be known at the end as the age
of astigmatism, aptly, for all the miracles gone

completely unseen, even though they occur
right in front of our faces, right in front of our eyes,

like this one, the one about Miracle Carp, who knows,
knows better than anyone, what is about to happen.


Deliver Me

From the scythe-blade, the tulip’s sharp tip.
From sword and petal. The gun-metal blue

of dawn’s last arrival. Or, rather, deliver me
from the realization of it, the flashpoint neuron

firing that blank ammunition. Deliver me from
the target, the vision board, from any interpretation

of the galaxy. Deliver me from anthropomorphizing
my cats, those four-legged little tigers. They do not

speak to me, or if they do, it is from some wild
beginning, pre-cortex, post-amnesia, peripatetic

and insatiable from hunger, desire, a dire need
to dig in, hunt prey, howl. Deliver me from now,

from these tinseled batons twirling a mess of glitter
into my chest, the knee-deep absolutions and ablutions

of my brain, that cinematic fireworks display,
Catherine wheel spinning sparks till darkness

fades (as light comes from light) and these lungs
balloon like they remember air after a long distance

relationship reunited. And so I check the inventories,
calendar-driven and counting, crossing off and crossing

into, and onto, the blank page of my body, as I enter
the day’s new mansion, and the architecture of later

becomes this moment’s room, and it, too, is agony
and melody, ode and dirge. If a life can be measured

in minutes, deliver me then from overanalyzing this line,
this deep bow, imperfectly metered and ending now no matter.


Originally from Pennsylvania, Alicia Hoffman now lives, writes, and teaches in Rochester, New York. Author of two collections, her recent poems can be found at Up the Staircase Quarterly, The Penn Review, Typishly, Radar Poetry, The Shore, and elsewhere. Find out more at:

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