Joanna Hoffman

Joanna Hoffman grew up in the Maryland suburbs, and now lives in Brooklyn. Her full-length poetry collection will be published by Sibling Rivalry Press in August 2013. She enjoys running in the park, brunch, and teaching her cat to fold laundry.


Two Poems (February 2013. Issue 40.)

On child pornographer Eric Toth's naming as Osama Bin Laden's replacement on the FBI's Most Wanted List

This is a dream. You are a boy wading through smoke, smiling.
Rolling your tongue across this dry bath; this crick in an old
man's spine from bending teeth to toes down in memory.

When your father and brother went down in plane crashes,
you saw the power lines ripple and thrash, screeching snakes
lunging forward.

Saw your mother's eyes roll backwards, the flame a thirsty
anthem scripting onto her flesh with fingers of ash.

Your six wives and twenty-six children, strewn like Coke lids
on grey beach, on the cemetery that drools and drools, that
names every patch of empty land a grave.

You wake up screaming.

You wake up screaming.

Your twenty-six children, the wives you made of them, strewn
like grains of sand on a beach. Your skin is
the best passport; an everyday renewal.

When she found out, your mother's eyes rolled backwards,
the tide a soft eulogy, a shroud that drowns in mercy.

When your father and brother heard, they thought of
your model airplanes. How you howled when anyone
else touched them.

You wanted everything to be born a museum. To bind
and gag all that comes after. Your own growing body
was the last disaster. You follow the yellow smoke
to a boy, smiling.

This is a dream.


The hardest part is not apologizing.
Is it better to be genuine, or to be sorry?

I am rarely both, but always the latter. On the subway, the word rattles in my groggy skull like a neon maraca. It just falls out so effortlessly. On the phone at work, my voice wavers, limboing under a thin, invisible line. Customer service is all about smoothing down the exploding insecurity of people who need therapy, and reassuring them that they’re right, they’re good, they will be rewarded for being obnoxious. I’m sorry, here’s your entitlement back. Over text, with the girl who broke up with me and then accused me of being a bad friend— I’m so sorry. I’ll be a better jellyfish in the future. Every time the cell phone shakes, I wince. I walk home furious. Leave me the fuck alone, I snarl at the cat curling around my foot. She stares back, wide-eyed, then yawns and saunters away.

The Legendary