Grandfather Reading Celan in Middletown, NY by Carlie Hoffman

We walk the little Grove
Street Park that bleeds into North
Street, dirt clouding the cemented path,
a few blood-flushed leaves, relief, then snow.
Lord of this hour was a wintercreature. Each ghost
unspools from the cuticle between branches
as spiders down each web’s spine. His brother’s
ghost hovers by the stream with all the cousins
apologizing for never speaking plainly to each other:
fear of locked-in syndrome, palpitating hearts,
black milk in the blood, shame. Nobody wants a ghost,
but now the image of his brother
hanging from a rope in the rafters
is a prophecy in repose, and as he reads the translation
his torn-awake vein knots itself, the incredulous tongue
measures each split end. I want to meet
my grandfather at the beginning,
before the mothers in the market worry a finger across the stamp
on a milk jug, triple-checking the date. How untrustworthy
the mind, its longing of what it knows. How miserable
to relinquish our innermost parts
in service of the mind. I go astray in everything
but now I am rushing behind his grey coat
in the grizzled afternoon, eavesdropping. Something carved,
without extension, my climbing mouth biting in.

Carlie Hoffman is the author of This Alaska (Four Way Books, 2021), which is shortlisted for the Foreword Indies Book of the Year Award. Her second collection is forthcoming with Four Way Books in 2023. A poet and translator, her honors include a 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize and a Poet’s & Writers Amy Award and her work has been published in Los Angeles Review of Books, Kenyon Review, Boston Review, New England Review, Jewish Currents, and other publications. Carlie is the founder and editor-in-chief of Small Orange Journal.