Lightning Bugs



Most nights I roll the hours

I should be sleeping through my fingers

like beads on a rosary.


I don’t pray so

I have no hymnals or ancient scripture to

soften the day I’m trying to leave behind.


Some nights it feels like

ghosts haunt me,

collecting my dreams like lightning bugs.


Other nights I hear Tolstoy

reminding me the fault we find in others

is what we see in ourselves.


Halfway through the rosary

the morning sun rises.


My lashes become cobwebs.

The skin under my eyes a requiem.


I spend my daytime hours

collecting the sorrows of others.


Maybe if I learned how to pray,

I’d pull out that rosary in my drawer and

sleep would finally find me.


Maybe if I found a god I believed in

I could take back those lightning bugs and

turn them into angels.


©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved




When I see plums I taste childhood.
Sun cooking sidewalks and driveways.
Bare feet burning and we giggle and we laugh.
We’re safe.
Hummingbirds hanging in air thick and sweet and sticky like plum juice dripping down arms and cooking on sidewalks.

I see turquoise and I smell perfume.
Gold-flecked wallpaper.
TV trays standing still and records rarely playing
The sun porch holding my grandfather.
The Giants game on and my grandmother pouring iced-tea into turquoise and gold tumblers.
Her smile.
Sunspots lining her soft, soft arms.
They match the color of her hair.
Her eyes sparkle
In her our Italian history locked away tightly.

White Toyota Truck
Lawn chair cushions filling the bed.
Heat and hard to breathe
His California cowboy eyes looking everywhere but at us.
The Giants score.
Grandpa humphs. Grandma caters.
He barely looks at us.
Miles of San Jose brown and dust.
I still scan the license plate of every white pickup I see.

The condo
The invisible landmines.
the plums
Her skin soft like baby powder
Grandpa sitting in his theater chairs
Minnesota and lakes and her eyes
Don’t breathe too loud
Read his mood by the way he opens the door.
Have the Giants game playing.
Don’t breathe too much
Remember the plums and hummingbirds and turquoise.
Minnesota is waiting.
Her arms wide open and safe and waiting

©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved

Queen Anne’s Lace


I keep losing myself like
I’m a pair of keys
And this house keeps falling apart all around me
Weeds growing through the cracks in my garage, the garage with shingles falling off
The pipes leak on every floor
All I see are metaphors
The more I close my eyes the more
I lose my wings
The walls are constantly asking me
Don’t you realize how dangerous it is to hide in your own body
Wrapped in yourself like your Queen Anne’s lace
I can’t breathe in here
But I just keep holding my breath
Apparently air doesn’t want to be in my body either
Is looking for a new home where all the light switches turn on lights
I’m so sick of metaphors
I just want some spark to catch me
Light this whole house on fire
So I no longer worry about metaphors and falling shingles and lost keys


©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved

the eve…

i’m turning 37 tomorrow

so today

I’ll try to make life changes

i’ve been meaning to…


i’m gonna clean those garden beds

up real nice and remember

to use my sunscreen


i’m going to practice sketching

eyes and leaf skeletons &

maybe even bones since i now have a

collection of them outside my own body


my own aging body…

maybe i can study these bones

before i turn 37 & maybe

wisdom & peace will present

itself as if i’m reading tea leaves


i’m gonna make my own tea.

pluck all the mint from my garden

and muddle those leaves

just like i read online


and maybe with my sketching

done & bone-tea-leaf readings

finished, I’ll actually sit


and soften so I can start

reading  Hemingway again

He must have thought

in ellipses too, like me, because

he’s always going on & on

it’s so poetic. I want to be more poetic…


maybe now that tomorrow i’m

turning 37, I can be

more poetic & less of me.

less of a smoker & a

strange lady with too much

sadness in her…


i wonder if someone tried to

read my bones like

garden-fresh tea leaves, would

they see all the sadness there? Has it

infected my bones, too?


My heart has been a cavern

for sad shit like that but i never

thought about where else the sadness was infecting…



©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved


when she sleeps in your bed the first night, she doesn’t sleep –

she floats above sleep the whole night,

stiff as a board, ears so attuned to your chest rising and falling

to match it well enough you won’t notice she never fully gives in

a few hours earlier, she nestled her head on your shoulder

eyes memorizing all your freckles and faded tattoos, her fingers tapped softly on your skin

your hands felt like dulled sandpaper and they never left her body –

you rubbed the small of her back rhythmically until you drifted away

her dreams were minimal that night and in the morning, when

she popped up too quickly, you made her eggs and avocado wrapped delicately in tortillas

she could feel you lingering all over her –

in her hair that you grabbed,

the small of her back that you sanded…

she let the sounds from your speakers fill her ears as

she pulled on her lips that you kissed just moments before

and even as she sipped coffee from that handmade mug you picked up last year,

she still tasted your breath in her mouth…


©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved


I felt myself dip —

too deep, almost- into the cold,

cold stream, my breath caught

on the branches

above, dressed in pearly

white fur and sap

I felt myself plunge —

immerse my whole body, almost –  into

the frigid, frigid air, my bones

now icicles, my flesh frozen- molts

like a python, shimmering

like diamonds caught

in moonlight, I emerge —

©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved


i think the dragonflies are trying to find me

bring me the grit i’m lacking

they’ve been circling me for days

as i’ve wrapped myself in a cocoon

of beach sand and tears

hiding on my perch

they keep flying right up to my windows

i think maybe they want me to join them in flight

maybe they know i need to find a way to fly

to spread my wings and let the dust of everything

fall from my bones

fall off my body like sand

i think the dragonflies are trying to find me

they won’t leave me

and i’ve never felt so alone


©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved




i can’t talk to you anymore.

i chased a sunset i could never fully see tonight. the exploding tangerine and soft columbine pink popped out behind those mountainous clouds just enough to remind me of the beauty i’m always chasing, the love i’m always hunting. I never find where it starts.

when i got home i took a warm bath and lit my new candle i didn’t buy for you.

i louffa’d my whole body and finally soak-washed my hair. shaved my legs and used that lotion i can never remember to use. my whole face is waxed and i’m not worried about missing eyebrows.

i just can’t talk to you anymore.

my nails are painted red again. i took my mascara off all the way. i scrubbed you off me, left you in the dirty bath water to circle the drain, off me.




©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved


its not hard to see, now

that all we ever had was just

snack in the course of life

a mere morsel, an appertiff of

what we all seek

it tasted sweet,

you tasted so damn sweet i wanted to make

a meal of you, of us

of all those nights we dragged on into the morning

but the mornings were so damn bitter,

the way i like my coffee, but you don’t



©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved



her mother tended to meddle

too much because her father never gave a damn

her mother took on the role with the same grace as someone stung by bees

the way her face twisted as each question forced its way out her pursed lips

the way her body tightened, flinching with each unsatisfying response

disdain clung to her mother’s skin like her caked-on powder


her father barely knew the face of his daughter

so her mother studied every nuanced line on her daughter’s face

mapping lies and guilt before words fully escaped her insecure lips

she circled her daughter’s life with precision, not warmth

the way vultures hunt the sky

the way flies can act like vultures hunting the sky



©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved



it’s not infrequent i cringe

at myself in the mornings

the night before fuzzy like a plastic magnifying glass

i can’t seem to shake you

i can’t seem to hold onto me

long enough, strong enough

to fully break free

in the morning with sobriety pulling back the sleep from my eyes

i cringe at what i see, what i’ve become

and heavy is the weight of it all

so by nightfall

i slip back into you, back into drink

back into the safety of your plastic promises


©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved