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.
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.
IT CAN’T BE TAKEN
You’ve spent all day with her
wandering the cornfield, drinking rum
from Coke bottles, trash talking
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.