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The West would teach me to wake

in the clouded dawn and open


a giant freezer to chop meat

for the barn dogs, mottled geese


going berserk in the yard, my

little sister snoring ferociously


in the amethyst hour.

My adolescence—


ruled by sound and walls

full of horse hair. There I am:


raking mulch in a drizzle

like a grainy scene on an old


television, tinny antenna

bent skyward—a steeple,


and I’m standing in the center

of the world, a burning heart,


all around me the smell

of manure I’ll come to love.



You’ve spent all day with her

wandering the cornfield, drinking rum 

from Coke bottles, trash talking 

your fathers—hers 

wheelchair bound in Haifa, maybe 

peering at the garden, smoking a joint, 

bitter, perhaps humming a list in his head 

of all the women he’s ever slept beside 

until morning cracked the old 

spell open, yoke cracked onto a spoon. 

Your father is on a surgery table up the highway, 

anesthetized, the room smelling of oranges 

and burning hair, of cutting through bone. 

It’s beautiful here, she says, as she peels 

off her Wrangler jeans and you both 

lie down inside a chronic row of corn.

Evening, and you’re both so drunk

she pissed herself and the hilarity 

of the moment is almost monumental,

though, of course rapture, of course a body

blurting out what’s extraneous. She tosses

her pants toward another plot of urine-

colored corn and you are glad 

she’s beside you, as she’s always 

been when the whole tapestry 

screws itself into the heart’s hollering

or its burning. 


You remember all the evenings 

with her in summer, just like this, 

when the shouting flourished

like a box of chives erupting,

you’d walk the mile to meet her 

at Dunkin Donuts—past midnight,

stars hunting you down

Or you’d jump the fence 

to the private pool 

for a night swim 

in the good part of town, 

and you love this town

despite what it’s come to stand for. 


Up the highway, your father is waking

from oblivion, tongue depressor

in his mouth. It is like a new bird wakes

from the mouth of her shell.

He can’t appreciate it, 

but you know there are other contexts 

where the big themes pan out.

You’ve watched her, dead

center of the cornfield, 

and it can’t be taken, 

her body bold

with moonlight, laid bare.

Carlie Hoffman’s debut poetry collection, This Alaska, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2021. She is a recipient of a 92Y/Discovery Poetry Prize and an Amy Award from Poets & Writers. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in The New England Review, Los Angeles Review, North American Review, The Florida Review, Bennington Review, Boston Review and elsewhere.

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