Richard Hoffman

This Close and Gaza Aftermath
November 24, 2023 Hoffman Richard

This Close

             i.m. Robert James Hoffman 1950-1972


Little brother I have forgotten
our secret but I remember
your cupped hand
and steamy breath in my ear


I believe you are near


my five hungry senses
as if you are with me
in the spaces between my fingers


between the letters of my name
between the numbers of my years


in sounds too high for ears
too low for even foot-soles


sometimes I can almost see you
shadow of a helpless fish
in the curl of a breaking wave


or hear you like halyards clinking
on wobbling masts in a foggy harbor


and recently the grieving animal I am
cooked up your likeness in a dream


you recognizably you but nothing


like the way I remember you
your round face intent upon surviving


I never wonder
who you might have become


never think of you as almost


rather as weightless counterweight
as abstract afterward
ungone a visitor from nowhere


you are where all the waters go
where I take myself to soothe myself to find a way
to understand your absence


how aging I grew into it
grew onto it like a trellis


Is it your death or mine or ours
or everyone’s I am moving through
the whole length of this life you left so early?



Gaza Aftermath

for Mosab Abu Toha


Shalt not yeah not kill but come on hella money.
Fires in the street drones in the air a love poem
speared and flapping on a crooked pike of rebar.


Death, listen, for your own good stop consorting
with murderers, it gives the wrong impression.
We owe you after all, and all of us are good for it.


Before the first door opened with old designs
the story of it all was right there in the book—
how fear becomes hatred—if you read it right.


I used to think we are here to help one another
believe all this is real and sometimes beautiful.
I only think that sometimes now. Which words


at least won’t make things worse? Which stars
are stars and which surveillance satellites?
Remember, there are two sides to every dollar.


An elegy claws its way up grief’s hoarse throat,
a dirge that could fracture your ribcage calling
to a world where such singing might make sense.


In the rubble a child’s remains are unearthed
right there, dead center in our future, and a photo
goes viral as in vain we mumble ancient poems.


The weight of dread is no lighter when shared.
Barbed wire rusts but razor wire just gleams.
You can change a map; a calendar is different.

Richard Hoffman has published five books of poetry, Without Paradise; Gold Star Road, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and the Sheila Motton Award from The New England Poetry Club; EmblemNoon until Night, winner of the 2018 Massachusetts Book Award, and his most recent, People Once Real. His other books include Half the House: a Memoir; the 2014 memoir Love & Fury; the story collection Interference and Other Stories, and the essay collection Remembering the Alchemists. He is Emeritus Writer in Residence at Emerson College.