Three Poems by Strummer Hoffston

by: Strummer Hoffston

Strummer Hoffston practices a poetics of incision, of digging in. Whether she’s writing about our confused connections to the natural world, death and loss, or a brain kept mysteriously in a garage, these poems sharpen our focus as we seek the center, that “something protected” that houses “the wish that living/ as we know it/ wouldn’t end.”



There’s no light in the arbor.
Massed thicket furls in shadow,
party of plants, drinking plants
imbibe in spare contrast.
The eye dims. We can’t see the house
and mistake grass for a sea
infinite in shade and reach
whose depth and pressure buckle the rim,
disrupt a flat town far east
waking on uneven land.
Someone there loves when wind
hits the field, doesn’t mind
getting dug up, going underground
where he’ll raise spirits,
lead a hymn. And if he’s alone
he imagines the sound of water
filling a bowl, Armenian plums
torn from the branch,
washed and eaten.



When I move the brain
from its Styrofoam cooler
to the sheet of wax paper
I’ve laid out in the garage
I open it in one slice
down the center.
Days pass and I hardly move
from the chair I’ve set up
facing the open brain.

You come to the door, neglected,
wanting sex and compassion,
and ask, “How much longer
are you going to sit there like that?”
“Close the door,” I say.
“Every time you come in here
you let the good air out.”

You shut the door
and return to your study.
You sit down at your desk
and pull a magazine from the stack.
You wonder what makes me think
I’m teachable all of a sudden,
able to worship, unraveling
the snail-colored coil
of some poor soul’s cerebrum
looking for a pearl, an egg,
something protected.



when the Mets make
the playoffs
for the first time
in nine years
I think of you
and then
when they play
the Cubs
in game one
of the league series
we share an experience
though we’re
a thousand
miles apart
estranged but for
an occasional note
when a dog
we shared dies
both of us
watch the Mets
desperate that they
eke out a win
and they do
then we share
joy and relief
that’s short lived
there are seven games
in the series
and it’s far
from over
on our first date
we saw a film
you put your hand
on my knee
I wanted you
to do that
somehow you knew
what I wanted
and you wanted
the same thing
are you
as I envision
hair long
slightly grey
the woman
who loves you
and the love
she returns
though she
doesn’t know
she can’t
have you fully
will always
be without
the small
inextinguishable whit
lit for me
that moves
as if an antenna
each time
I think of
our love
for one another
and you
with a sigh
are just as astounded

death doesn’t happen
all at once
the dog goes a little blind
then a little deaf
a tumor grows for months
before it’s felt
in the rolls
of his neck
when he returns
to my arms
when called
from across the street
with his senses softened
he loses me outside
on a walk
in the middle
of the night
beyond the ring of lamplight
I see him lost
tail down
head jerking
I call out,”NEWMAN!”
clap my hands
and whistle
he locates me
and though he relaxes some
he runs up
an extra flight of stairs
past the workmen’s ladders
buckets of paint
and rolled up carpet
he whimpers in the dark
before the door
to the roof
I pick him up
and carry him down
to the third floor
where have I seen
this loss of composure before
on a hunt for a thing
not there
the night a woman
screaming on the street
awoke me
it was as if she was living
the dream
she interrupted
in me
the rain soaked her
and the man
walking away
to whom she screamed
from my window
I saw her
drop to her knees
on the corner
and weep
with the sting of ruin
the wish that living
as we know it
wouldn’t end


Strummer Hoffston is a graduate of NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She is a MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of a Writers’ Workshop Provost’s Fellowship. Her work has appeared in frankmatter and Salt Hill.

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