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

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



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


insomnia… just another word for creativity… a way for the words stockpiled in my double chin to finally be freed… i overuse ellipses when i’m sober…. and apparently when i drink too. they are like a metaphor for my brain… because it never stops.

no thought is ever complete but a series of ideas and hurts and wants strewn together endlessly … relentlessly. and i’ve gotten a little lazy in my capitalization and i’m wondering if this is what it’s like to find your voice… to let the words come out unedited and punctuation a way to stream it all together, poetically, haphazardly – delicately insinuating whats beneath the surface… whats beneath my surface?

that’s too personal a question to ask and i don’t think i trust you {or myself} enough to reveal the real sides of me… because maybe the facade isn’t as protective as i thought and maybe if i keep typing – you, someone, anyone … might figure out what’s really going on… and then what? what if the real me is too messy for you to handle? my eyes are magnetic, i’m magnetic i’ve been told, but that’s the facade, right?

because when i don’t sleep and my hair is more rat’s nest than wild curls and my intense need for reassurance…. constant reassurance is not really that endearing but a glimpse at what i can offer… a scarred heart half beating, a thinning body shaking in the morning… the food leaves my body almost as quick as i can shovel it into my mouth … so i short-hand that now … its really just a matter of practicality and when i smoke too much at night, theres no one here to judge so it never really happened, right? the way a tree may or may not make any sound when it falls and no one is around to hear it… no ones around me to hear me fall so do i even make a sound now? i don’t know…

i know the way my lungs feel more like a heavy metal urn than life in the morning, the way your eyes fill with regret when they see me lying next to you… the way we both make secret, repeated empty self-promises when you leave…

i know the way i rationalize your distance, your departure… the way i rationalize why i keep saying yes to you even though i know better… because at this point in my life i do know better, the way i know sleep is important and smoking is bad for me, and the way i know i don’t need to say yes to the next drink, the next fuck, you offer… but i want it too, right?

that’s what i say at least. and my answers, my responses and apparent unending acceptance of you are but a few of the thoughts that circulate through my brain and keep me awake…. but truth is – i was real fucked up long before you came around and i really don’t care if you try to take some responsibility for my old vices popping back up… because maybe that guilt keeps you away…

and i do want you to stay away because at some point, i’d like to finally sleep again and eat again and no longer wonder why you didn’t fall fully for me like the way you started to…

was it because your fingers got caught in my tangled hair too many times? was it because my vices fed your own and you know you’re not strong enough to get better with me in your life? was it because the way i twist words and string them together did little to move you, to wake you? maybe it’s because you knew from the beginning you were only interested in slivers of me but i offered all of me, too much of me – my body and my scarred half beating heart on a silver plate like if i served enough of me up to you, you might eat me whole and i could finally disappear…

©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved


he first fell in love with the way she smelled, next it was the way her smile overtook her slender face when her eyes caught his. years after she left this earth ahead of him, he still traced the halls of their apartment for any faint lingering of her. In his final days, he smiled like he a knew a secret, like he knew he would soon watch her face light up as her eyes found his again.


©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved


You make me want to write poetry about us and the complications of everything and I fucking hate you for it. My mind is always trying to twist all the feelings and words into a wonderful maze that poeticizes- beautifies the confusion. It never stops. We never stop and I feel so stuck with you in this winding labyrinth of why is it not working why is it not easier to fall for you the way my heart is falling? I just want to peel you off me like sunburnt skin. I just want to be free. My body is a mess. Everything is a mess with you and I can’t – don’t really want to -break free and there is no comfort in feeling you don’t want me to succeed.


©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved


and when i see you i don’t see pink anymore… i don’t see the color of bleeding hearts in May and i think i forgot how to eat when we met so now my thighs are fading into a pale soft pink, so light you almost can’t see them anymore

i like how the rain smells in the morning without you and i don’t think i mind that i no longer can see the pink sunrise from your room …. it all just faded into the typical blue sky anyways… even on grey days the sky was becoming predictable

i don’t mind that the color of pink is yours, not mine – i never really cared for any of those too soft and too delicate shades – i like my hues less subdued and bold like the color of the sky exploding in protest going down for the night…

and i don’t think i like the color of you anymore…

©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved

this many times

it took me 27 times until i figured it out… that i need to fall fast or i won’t fall at all. i run for the edge of the cliff and my arms are reaching for anything, for nothing … i expect to fly and soar and never even think of gravity… because once gravity becomes a factor, i tiptoe back away from the ledge, and nothing seems beautiful or enticing anymore… and I’ll likely not even wonder what your embrace would feel like because i’m comfortable now, safely on this side of the ledge. and perhaps you’ll still be awaiting my flight, waiting to show me you can catch me. but once i reconnect with reality and science and all that nonsense, i’ll never take the leap. there’s only been a few i’ve been willing to test the theory of gravity on and i can only do it with eyes closed and arms widespread and a silly belief in my ability – in our ability- to soar through the skies, high above all the trees that always seem to tower so high above me


©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved




i’m in love with a life i used to live… and at the time i had no idea how perfect it was. I was trying to escape it, trying to improve it or perhaps simply just alter it, ever so slightly… the way you twirl a crystal in the sun to see all the magnificent rainbow beams dance around your room… that’s what i was trying to do – that’s what i’m always trying to do it seems. i get too distracted by what’s ahead, by what’s not working that i simply miss seeing the slivers of perfection and beauty right in front of me, right in me. and now, with my binders and words and doodles from that time so many moons ago, i realize how much about that life i loved and didn’t know… and i won’t let it bitter me… it sweetens me and softens me and helps me sway in a slow-dance at my sister’s wedding sort of way…

©2017 erin hoffman – all rights reserved