I went there once,
to the place you’re imagining.
It was purple, with wild geraniums
under green-bright stars.
All the constellations spelled
words, like &
with her sack of stones
and one dying rose,
fragrant as Pinot Noir.
Was the cry they heard a kestrel’s or a distressed gull
or a passing soul or one not wanting to, a disciple
asked as fog burned off the harbor and left the water
glazed with fire: Jesus roused from dozing lightly. Sun
turned the shore rocks ocher. A bee thrummed near;
they watched it hover. John, who squatted to mend a net,
said he once saw a crack open in midair through which
a shadow appeared, some darkling creature from
its dark lair, up across the wall, as if watching, and no light
my mother bleeds for me in a barn
she gives birth in a tree as the flood waters rise
she is a refugee
my mother bends and gathers
she pounds and sweats to quiet many hungers
she is a worker
my mother calls for mercy
she forms pieces of sky into shapes that heal
she is a maker
my mother thirsts for wisdom
she swallows my words and they shift in her like tides
she is a scholar
Drive north down Highway 301, past
the school where, weekdays, deaf children
run wild on the playground. Keep going until
you see the sign, "Snake Man," then turn left
into Camper's Lodge and swing on around
past the turquoise pool in front of the
Laundromat and park your car. Get out and
go inside-any wayfaring stranger is welcome
here of a Sunday morning, rain or shine.
Take a seat in one of the six pews painted
white as the washers and dryers lined up in
In this month of dehydration,
we keep our eyes skyward, both to watch
for rain and to avoid the scorn
of the scorched succulents who reproach
us silently, saying, "You promised to care."
And so, although we thought we could stick
these seedlings in the ground and leave
them to their own devices, we haul
hoses and buckets of water to the outer edges
of the yard where the hose will not reach.
Against the ugly annals of
Bible-thumper politics bounce the echoes
of Bad-Eye Thomas' lonesome cry.
His tears collect against the
coffers engineered by Robertson's broadcasts;
the retention walls defined by Falwell's broadsides.
Such rhetoric trickled down from
palatial headquarters (funded from small contributions)
to the votes of the faithful tithers.
Mrs. Thomas, Christopher's mother,
having deposited her social security check,
found his money coupon, kept neatly between
her phone bill and her monthly offering
Its a sweet June day, and the mockingbirds
are singing, as are the rubber tires of cars
on the road, and both of these sounds reverberate,
echo, the jazz of early summer, with the muffled
percussion of wind in the trees. A crow
twangs and plucks his big black bass,
and Im riffing along with the breeze, scatting
words here and there, trying to make sense
No god at all, you do not
work the forge (conscripts
and captives, the poor, do that).
You work the till.
No one begins a man
and ends a god, and you
most certainly have always been
someone or anothers man.
Richard Hoffman lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
He is the author of Half the House