Sundown, Looking at My Estranged Cousin’s High School Yearbook Picture and All the Damage Done

By CARLIE HOFFMAN

 

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.

[Purchase Issue 21 here.]

Sundown, Looking at My Estranged Cousin’s High School Yearbook Picture and All the Damage Done

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