Eric Hoffman



Sin is a diminution,
A pravity.

The intellect names it shade,
Absence of light, essenceless.

We say what we are,
A telescope focused on objects,

A galvanic circuit chasing extravagance,
Whose magnitude adds nothing.

God is native to these bleak rocks,
The poverty of stones.


We grasp at what slips,
The handholds and footholds,

And so we reach for others
That also slip and fall away.


To any house
A key can be given
Or rescinded.

We furnish a home
With those qualities
We can afford,

Place mirrors
Where reflections are wanted
Or as necessity demands.

Some rooms hold horizons
While others invite
Only the evening light.


Of what use is fortune or favor
To a cold temperament,
To one whose nature is defective?

They'd die rather than pay their debt,
Or if they live simply
Disappear into the crowd.


Life is a bubble,
Sleep within sleep,
A private dream,

And man a golden impossibility
That threads a little bit of light
From darkness to darkness.


The yellow church lights glow,
The snow-filled streets of Boston
Made blue by moonlight, they too glow –

The carriages cross Main Street,
Past places of business
And the crowds

Move from place to place,
Each alike in appetite,
Yet singular in intellect and strength.

The glow of the church lights
At this frozen hour,
Refuge and surrender.


Tranquil eternal meadows,
Heaven without rent,

And heavenly creatures,
Naked, emblazoned

By desire, bare
Their heavy breasts,

Offer lost youth
Almost as penitence.

With each new beauty
A thirst is quenched,

Every appetite, once infant pure,
Darkens with lust.


Our love of the real
Draws us to permanence
Yet we anchor in quicksand,

We look at genius once
Then must take leave of it
And never see it again.

The bird alights nowhere,
Hops from bough to bough –
What fortune they have in ignorance.


Amid this vertigo,
I am thankful
For the small mercies.

In the morning I awake
And find again this tired old world,
And even when I climb

Into the thin and cold realm
Of lifeless science, I sink
Into sensation, the equator of life.


Experience is a gradual accretion
Of privation,
An impoverishment of virtue
And wisdom.

At times time's contents
Seem routine and genius
A chance occurrence.

The ships at a distance
Are romantic,
Yet on board we hear the groans
Of a sea-beaten wood,

We see the mussel-crowded hulls
And salt-bruised sails,
We smell the rich mold that perfumes
These heroic journeys.

The hill is held together by its roots,
The pleasant sun-painted hills,
And the houses upon them seem at peace
Until their roofs are lifted.


We cultivate pain –
An omnipresent state –
A toxic fermentation,

Hoping to know reality better
By its bitter taste.
Yet we find grief curiously empty.

The mind never touches its object
And the heart remains unconstrained
On an unnavigable sea.

Those who lose a beautiful estate,
A home, a wife, or child,
Cannot bring their grief any nearer.

It falls away, and eventually leaves
Little trace or scar.
The wise welcome this disaster.

They know the hottest conflagrations
Cool into ash.
They are blessed

With an unrelenting acceptance
That life is a poverty of knowledge.
We learn too late.

The one consolation
Is to live in defiance of this.
The rest is decoration.


The untiring conquerors,
For all their rapaciousness,
Retire silently
To ungracious graves
And wept to be forgotten.

Their ruins
Are the unmet victories
Of the proud.
We worship them
As monuments

When the weak hearts
Of shopkeepers
Are noble as any crown.
The eye makes the horizon.
Truth is an agreement,

Two opposing globes
Touch at a single minor point.
Appetency increases
The longer they remain in orbit,
Their equal energies opposed.


God walks among the vagabonds
Who know his son died

Suffering the banalities of wounds
Less torturous

Than a father's abandonment
When desperate for his love,

That he hurled himself headlong
Into a self-constructed hell

To suffer the torments
Of his own creation.

What is the mystery
When we are abandoned only

When doubt is undoubtable
And love is preliminary to pain?


The gardens are dressed
At midnight, the gentle
Fog lifts in the morning,

Revealing its fruits,
A dark loam gifted
With rich sustenance.

The household is met
At the morning table.
We see each other age

Before our eyes.
We watch the children grow.
All this is forgotten

Save for vague memories
Or when lost regained
In terrible detail, until

It finally ripens
Into a bitter fruit,
Becomes the meal

That fills the table,
An absent blessing,
Present as a wound.

Eric Hoffman is the author of twelve collections of poetry, the most recent being Forms of Life (Dos Madres, 2015) and The Transparent Eye (Spuyten Duyvil, 2016). His critical biography of poet George Oppen, Oppen: A Narrative, was published by Shearsman in 2013; a new expanded edition is forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil. He has also edited three volumes of the University Press of Mississippi's celebrated Conversations with Comics Artists series, edited by M. Thomas Inge, Dave Sim: Conversations, Chester Brown: Conversations (both 2013), and Seth: Conversations (2015).

Poems, articles, essays and reviews have appeared worldwide, including Jacket2, Talisman, E-Ratio, Poetry Flash, Rain Taxi, Smartish Pace, Otoliths, Big Bridge, Moria, Indefinite Space, and many others.
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