p
o
e
m
s

Today I'm smoke up the chimney over ashes of trust
and I don't see a Phoenix egg down there, do you?

A broken vase of red carnations like meat on the floor,
a future of slivers and shards and splintered bone.

Everything my father ever feared, all that my mother
knew but could not say: Pulvis et umbra sumus,

use and meaning the same, no use to know good,
some tide pulling love away, exposing the few words

meant to hold together several generations to see
further, where only experience discerns what time

has been up to, or at least comes to believe it can,
is all rubble for hungry scavengers, scrap to be sold.

I am, as always, a little bit out of it, but come on,
honestly, wasn't the light there sometimes beautiful?

Caravaggio's torchlight trembling on dark armor,
as Christ is taken post-betrayal? The other martyrs

to impossible belief might be said to have known
something, no? Tell me they did, that it isn't all

a kind of gyascutus, one leg shorter than the other,
grazing the steep green hillside of our needy credulity,

propped up by this or that one's mercantile words,
dark portrait of a forbear who appears to emerge

from the somber past, frowning and cautioning,
but is really only covered in accumulated grime.

Richard Hoffman’s most recent collection, Noon until Night, won the 2018 Massachusetts Book Award for poetry.

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