Cynthia Marie Hoffman is the author of the poetry collections Call Me When You Want to Talk about the Tombstones, Paper Doll Fetus, and Sightseer. She is a former Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, Director’s Guest at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Wisconsin Arts Board. Her work has appeared in Lake Effect, Smartish Pace, The Los Angeles Review, diode, and elsewhere.
This Is All True
If your foot dangles off the edge of the bed, a metal blade rises from the floor and slices it off.
The blade has already been installed in the floor. How do you know you haven’t murdered
someone accidentally? Look directly at the sun. Touch your eyeball once a day. Bite a hole in
your cheek. Run to bed and lie perfectly still beneath the quilt before the toilet stops flushing.
Something will happen if you don’t. Press your fingers to your palm in a particular order. Don’t
blink while looking at something upsetting, like knives or illness or graves. Blinking seven times
memorizes the faces of the people you love. This knock on the door is the police come to take
you away. Everything can be taken away in a blink. This could be your last day of freedom.
Protection Spell Jar
Add to the jar the blinking. Counting to the number seven. Drawing a star. Counting to four. Gold
flakes panned from the creek. The whisker of a stuffed dog. A salamander. Freckles. Star sticker
pressed to the hem of a curtain. The ocean sand that scraped your cheek, and the wave that
turned your body over. The breath of air when you were no longer drowning. The first breath
after choking and the sweet chocolate in your throat. Suspend disaster like a raindrop that pulls
the fragile bloom down by its throat and won’t let go. The windshield wrapped around your body.
Tapping in a pattern. Counting squares. The blazing heat of the star. The explosion.
If You Have Grown Unrecognizable to Yourself
It is your own doing. You were always setting off bombs in your own brain. Light electric around
your frizzy head. The only thing between your face and the shadow of your face in the creek
water was the meniscus, that rubbery boundary wrapping like lips around the stick you couldn’t
help but poke it with, a brief kiss before breaking.