Eric Hoffman

from Entanglement


The people cannot exceed
the ability to feed them –

Defy this fact
and burden man with catastrophe –

If mouths outstrip what there is to eat
there will be misery among all
no matter the inequality –

These dark tints are drawn
from conviction and not

a jaundiced eye, or
spleen of disposition –



The new lights dazzle
and astonish –

revolution’s blazing comets
give new flesh to ravaged spirits,

the fate of mankind –


The question then becomes one
of narrative: or
is there only an oscillation
between happiness and misery –


Nature has scattered the seeds of life
in such profusion, yet is miserly
in the means of cultivation –

Necessity restrains,
plants and animals shrink
by waste of seed, sickness and death –

Among men, it is misery and vice,
numerous waste lands,
pastures and a butcher’s meat –

horses outdistancing their sun –
titan strength in the land,

of our diminution,
a caprice of fashions
and in this truth

one finds a kernel virtue,
an ordeal that ensures
continued imperfections –


There are no limits to the Earth
beyond its solar allotments,
the salt texture of its winds –

This fact is at its core
in razor heat, radiating outward
into the ozone, infusing

every plant and animal
impelled by instinct to increase
without doubt or interruption –

The urge infuses, bolted
into every edifice,
liberty and superabundance

repressed by nourishment,
that common core –
the fear of the Neanderthal

or the small marsupial –
the hunter and the hunted
etched into cavern walls

in firelight –


By cleanliness, the plague expelled –
the ratio of burials
to births increased –

cæteris paribus –

without it, entire towns
sit silent –

That death is commonplace,
that we ignore it at our peril,
that we have fashioned a dream of death
that is an unreality, a perception
not unlike
the framed portrait
of a young girl, poised
before her bed,
kneeling in prayer –

We are unaccustomed to reality –

A stone will fall,
a plant will rise,
and man will die
in illusion –

Yet we can foresee
the foreseeable –

tautologies –
mystic pasts
on cavern walls

Eric Hoffman's critical biography of George Oppen, Oppen: A Narrative, is out from Shearsman and the second of his ostentatiously self-designated "Canadian Cartoonists Trilogy," Chester Brown: Conversations will be out around the same time from University Press of Mississippi. The first, Dave Sim: Conversations, was released earlier this year and the last, Seth: Conversations, should be out in 2014. Dos Madres brought out a book of selected poems this past May, By the Hours: Selected Poems Early & Uncollected.
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