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Daniel Hoffman

Daniel Hoffman

Photo credit: Elizabeth McFarland

The Way He Went

He didn’t go away
To the roll of drums
Or to annunciatory thunder
Of mantic voices,

He didn’t leave by the long light
Of line-storms slashing doomed horizons
Or the guiding blink and dousing
Of little harbor lights,

He went by darkness and by daylight going
A silent way
Vacating endless
Acreages of parking-lots and marshes

Then evening all atwitch with raucous birds
Ignorant of the emptiness that fell
Lighter than dew.

He went
And the stars shone hard and rocks
Arose in their accustomed risings
From the sea while broken clouds

Scudded against and closed around
Ragged towers of the city
Gathering tumults of electric signboards
Glowing in the sky where many colors

Made one color
As before.

The Princess Casamassima

After digging in the rubble of the ruined house
For nine days
They’ve found a third corpse—
No fingerprints; no hands.
One leg and the head blown off.
The story in the Times
Didn’t even tell
The sex of the torso . . .

These were some of the people
Who’d take power to the people
Into their own hands.
All their questions have one answer.
Makes non-negotiable demands
For an apocalypse
In the case of survivors.

Once, another world ago,
There was a girl I never dreamed
Would be like them:
She seemed to lack nothing
—Looks, friends, certainly a silver
Spoon had stirred her porringer—
She’d sit scribbling
Notes in the next to the back row,

But I can’t remember now
One word she wrote for me.
—Good God,
Was it something I said
About Thoreau
Shorted her fuse?
Surely, such unbalanced, mad
Action is extracurricular . . .

If the discourse of our liberal arts
Which entertains all rival truths as friends
And rival visions reconciles
Could but bring the pleasures of its wholeness
To a mind
Rent by frenzy—
But how conceive what hatred
Of the self, turned inside-out, reviles

The whole great beckoning world, or what desire
Sentenced the soul
To that dark cellar where all life became
So foul
With the pitch of rage,
Rage, rage, rage to set aflame
Father’s house—What can assuage
That fire or that misfire?