8.06 / June 2013

Three Poems


listen to this poem

She’s been hard used by her gods,
who ink maps with scratch and bruise
on her thighs and forearms
of countries she could save.

Her joints wear thin from leaping
out of half dug graves, her stomach tears
from the worms of manic rush,
skin scars from burning runes.

She spent her twenties listing truths
by threes from equal pulls of opposite,
scrawled them on the sides of anthills,
smeared them on her chest in red clay,
while knee deep in freezing creeks.

On her twenty-ninth birthday she builds a fire
to seek out what smooth is left of her;
Yet, in shadow she finds only
fear without a kick in the ribs and cold
steal pressed to her temple; in borders
sees only a broken bending toward;
between eyes feels only stories
she refused to swallow.

That night she builds a new self
she can love without need of;
makes him everything she’s not
before embers last gasp,
from sinew, corn husk, horsehair,
beach grass, bearded seal gut,
but mostly bird; Adorns him with jade,
blue stone, ivory, and feather,
but mostly mirror; with faces and without,
ten feet tall and two inches high,
to be held tightly and shattered when touched.

He circles her,
but having no list spread from clay or
legend bled and bruised
she can think
of but one command—breathe.


for residents of the Marcellus Formation

listen to this poem
You and your sick hip bones Cassandra,
poking out of shale, clay, and cold water.

You want a hot date,
your turn to spread legs,
twist, and moan, on your way to the
boiler room; want to be called
good for clean heat; want us
to use our mouths to siphon diesel
from father’s big rigs to take you out;

want to tattoo long sheets
of numbers and elements to hide
your massy lumps; want us
to squeeze doctor’s throat
as you stick your tongue down it.

I watch you spinning your long
hair Cassandra and shouting
in and out of baryonic halo,
tightening white flesh and spilling it,

hourglass waist pinched for the dip.
The discos of Houston glow with you.

I wonder, Cassandra, if you would mind
folding up your thin limbs and sitting
still another moment.

I’ll cover you with a chiffon gown,
plant lavender, paint the earth all
your favorite gaseous pastels
to remind you that you can feel nothing
like burning, should sound nothing
like match snap.


Pigs of Beirut

listen to this poem

Marie moved to Australia to farm pigs
after the one in Luna Park finally
kicked it—took an Israeli rocket
to the ribs leaving one gold hoof and blue
shadowed eye on top of the tilt-
a-whirl. Marie loved that damned pig.

The way it lorded over its cartoon
menagerie of hollow Khol-eyed cribs—
big-dicked birds, swan and duck,
bitched claws, lion and bear.

At thirteen, she imagined him chaining them
to circus tent poles and spreading his striped
robes as he stared at moon rise over Mount
Lebanon and hunter’s belt to his left, sucking
in the carved stone, salt, and light into his tits.

Older and less Arab now, Marie casts spells
over her swine with carpet stitched squares
of numbers, ropes of feather, teeth,
bullets, and shell. She cries each morning
that they do not stand on two feet and demand
white robes. Sometimes she tugs at her rib cage,
if only I knew how to, dear God, I would give one.

Crystal Hoffman’s poetry has been published, or is forthcoming, in journals such as Whiskey Island, WomenArts Quarterly, 3AM, and Strange Horizons. Her first chapbook Sulfur Water is available from Hyacinth Girl Press. You can read about her cross-country walk at www.poetrypilgrim.com.
8.06 / June 2013