Winter 2017 — THE POTOMAC

Three Poems

Matt Hohner


What to Do When Someone Shoots Up a Gay Nightclub in Florida in the Name of God While You Are Living at an Artist Colony

The sun is so bright it leaves no shadows
only scars carved into stone on the face of earth
          —U2, "One Tree Hill"

No solace in the red wing blackbird's
requiem to the sky from the fence post,
nothing in the Blue Ridge mountains
shrugging in distant June haze. No
comfort in the grip of nervous skinks
on the cinder block arches darting away
as I pass. The morning walk from bedroom
to studio is a funeral procession, and I bear
the weight of my body like a casket.
Magnolias' sweet breath, boxwoods'
stately musk cannot perfume the rot
of the news. The sun is a muzzle flash
on my cheek, its brightness an insult.

You can choose to feel horror every day,
I remind myself, and think of home, three
hundred toe tags a year on brown men's feet,
so much cold freezer meat for Charon to pole
across to dark shores. Tall meadow grasses
undulate in the hot air. Rabbits scatter into
the weeds as I approach, gravel crunching
like bones underfoot. Above, under God's
blue unblinking eye, vultures pirouette
patiently on thermals, confident the day
will bring a nourishing meal before long.


Winter Storm Warning

          for Steve

The leading fingers of the next coastal storm
reach over the trees at the edge of the ravine,
thin tatters like battle flags; smoke from fire
a long way off. This will be like that storm
in 1983 when I spent the night in your old
stone house on the church grounds. The
weathermen kept revising snow totals
upward until forecast became irrelevant
and we acquiesced to the raging blizzard
that formed over our heads, as what no one
saw coming piled up around our legs like
paralysis, acceptance. How quietly the years
and clouds overtook you, hurt accumulating
in drifts over time. What does surrender feel
like as the sound of dry wind fills your ears
as two hundred feet become one hundred
become ground, become silence? The cable
channel has named this storm after the God
of War. How fitting, the white flag of snow
that will cover the world with irony, as the
cannons in my heart continue to pound away.



She stops what she is doing
at the entrance to the boutique
food market, bathed in gourmet
aromas from the stands inside;

reaches into her purse at her feet
to pull out a brush and comb her unruly
hair in the stifling subtropical air,
the sun now gleaming like a promise
through the rain clouds, parted
just so, for a moment.

She makes herself presentable, her
short–sleeve shirt tucked neatly, evenly,
into her bony denim jeans that hug
narrow hips and concave stomach,

before unfolding the discreet cardboard
sign she'd tucked under her arm
that reads, homeless god bless
in bold, black letters
on crisp white background,

and turns to face the oncoming traffic
of her life and what it has become.

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