This Haunting We Know
by the way our mother speaks a salt language,
sharpens her blade on our tongues, sings a lullaby
so cutting when we meet the spirits of the children
we were meant to be the song on the street is charged
as a choreography. By the way we do not need
the milkweed bursting like cloud when winds blow
and we are only seeds caught in the net of our own
drifting. Piece by splintered piece the fleece of our bones
breaks apart, sifts like silt through the air, by the way we
share slumber only with the sheep, dream of jumping
off the cliff near the yard we grew to fear, too near
the cemetery ghosts who joked with father nights
whiskey flowed thick as blood through his veins, nights
fists iron-pumped the walls, hit like small bombs,
by the way spring continues even now, somersaulting
the grass, by the way we wish this will all blow over,
these hauntings of the past, drifting in thin as dust motes
to settle like filaments of lead in the corners of the house.
Asafoetida. As in not knowing what it meant.
The way I said crick, not creek, unapologetically
peeked into other people’s windows on long walks
down the street right when dusk fell soft as silt
through a glass two story house—when lights
came on but drapes were not yet drawn
how I craved to insert myself into the family
tableaux. That was the same summer I kept
a journal counting all the numbers I knew.
I wished to only keep going forward.
To discover anything infinite and mine.
That was the same summer I ate a whole box
of orange freeze pops—arranged an entire rack
on my legs as I lay in a bunk consuming
The Babysitter’s Club—as they melted into slush
I’d scissor-snip them one by one. Slurp them up.
Now, I only remember I sometimes wanted to be
Christy, but mostly I envied Dawn. Flowers
in her hair. Friday night football games. Fireflies
in jars. That first kiss. That time I was so sick
with want I carved I love Bobby into the headboard
so many times I could squint my eyes together
and see hard through the grains of wood filtering
soft August light right into the future of another life.
Alicia Hoffman is the author of Like Stardust In The Peat Moss (Aldrich Press, 2013). Her recent poems can be found in Word Riot, Radar Poetry, Redactions, One Throne Magazine, SOFTBLOW, Hermeneutic Chaos, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the Rainier Writer’s Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.