No moon tonight but the white bells of a woman’s
eyes squinting tacitly toward a camera, staring out
from the glossy page of a high school yearbook
on a spring evening that stings like the elegy
of lifting a woman’s hair from the shower drain, dredged deep
in the tiny, aluminum hole you hadn’t scrubbed
until now. Now you ask yourself how
she is here, because you assumed.
No moon but stories of country girls
baking strudel in Bad Soden
in the middle of dawn when everything looks
as if about to catch fire, sky like a wound appearing
out of nowhere as they braid dough into
bone-clean rows. What’s the point
of raw ingredients without knowing how to organize
and carry forward? I rinse tomato crust
from the rims of soup bowls, the metal pot, and imagine,
for the first time, myself in the setting that made me,
the woman in the picture pressing fingers tightly into mine,
nails almost cutting into joints, leading me through the rubble.
I keep hearing how caution is a survival skill because nobody knows
what next worse thing is coming. Some nights my neighbor
texts me, I love ya, because I placed her medicine package
outside her apartment door.
The day we met there was a power outage
and I was drunk in the afternoon, brushing my hair.
Carlie Hoffman is the author of This Alaska. Her second collection is forthcoming with Four Way Books in 2023. Her honors include a 92Y/Discovery Poetry Prize and a Poets & Writers Amy Award. Carlie is the founder and editor-in-chief of Small Orange journal and a lecturer in creative writing at Purchase College, SUNY.