you are in the diode archives v6n3



It Starts

It starts when you are a child, in your bedroom, looking up at the window with pink curtains. Pink is your favorite color. You count the edges of the window. Right left top bottom. Right left top bottom. Vaguely you understand not to look at touching edges. Beyond the window is the forest with no sharp edges. Minnows swarm the creek, each a slim number 1, tallying each other as they pass. Tick, tick, tick, in the darkness beneath the eroded tree. One two three four. One two three four. The curtains are covered with constellations of glow-in-the-dark stars because you are not allowed to stick them on the ceiling. The curtains cover the edges of the windows, but you know they are there, just as you know the minnows are there in the cool water. Everything is alright. The pattern of your counting makes a 4. When the light goes out, the stars illuminate two paths converging toward the heavens. Your mother is right downstairs. You are just a little girl.


In the Forest

Deep in the forest behind the house, you are brilliantly alone. You overturn a stone. A salamander skitters on its belly. The forest is a bucket of trees, and you never think about your mother’s eyes in the window on the hill. Your pale face ripples below you in the creek. You are a haunted girl, haunted of mind. A storm brews on the reflected world thick with Jesus bugs darting on the surface tension. One two three four black stick bodies. Five six spiders hauling crosses on their backs. The cross that jabs seven times from somewhere deep inside your head, deeper than the eyes from the window can ever see. You have a secret. Once, you saw an eel suspended in the water. Once, in the leaves, you came upon a still body made of crumbling bones and fur. There was a tunnel of light shimmering with leaf dust, particles of the earth, which was the animal’s soul being drawn by the breath of God through the trees. You never wondered if it were not God. Seven fourteen twenty-one twenty-eight. Because down in the trees, it is just you and God. And there is only one God.


You Get a Thought In Your Head

You are a little girl sitting on the back stoop of the house in England, staring at your hand. The house where prickly fat hedgehogs waddle through the grass. Where your mother hides Easter eggs in the backyard. Where the girl across the street grows raspberries on a trellis. The space between your thumb and your middle finger is a zero and the sound is swish. But the sharp snap in your sister’s palm is a twig breaking. Why can’t you make that sound? You get a thought in your head. Your sister runs in the dappled yard in her shorts, cracking shafts of sunlight open with her thumbs. The cool concrete stings your legs. You get a thought in your head and it’s carving a hollow in your chest. In the afternoon, your mother takes you to the neighbor’s yard where you pick a raspberry from the bush. Just you and your mother and the quiet hall of leaves. In your palm, a pinkish bulbous heart. A deeply scooped out emptiness. Sweet sweet fruit. The only one who ever told you you were stupid was you.


The Music of Language is Clamping Down Hard

You are standing at the window in the kitchen because your sister has spotted the woodpecker. Every thought has a rhythm. The window, like all windows, has six lines: the lines around the outside and the X in your mind, corner to corner. The forest beyond is a thick enchantment of green. You’re in your bare feet. Everyone leans. You are just a girl in the summertime breathing at the glass. You draw the window pattern in your mind: one two three four five six. Then the red flash of bird. Isn’t he humongous, your mother says. Big as a cat. Isn’t he humongous works on the window. You put the words on the window. The woodpecker clutches at the feeder swinging by a rope. One two three four five six. Isn’t he humongous, you think think again, isn’t he humongous. What is happening to you? At your shoulder, your sister is normal, simple. The music of language is opening up for you. The music of language is clamping down hard. When the woodpecker is gone again, two slender grey birds sit together on a branch facing opposite directions, marking an X in the wide green glass. One two three four five six. You are just a girl in the summertime.


The Face Has Seven Holes

Someone is talking to you. Look at her face when she’s talking to you. Draw a star. Start with the right nostril. Draw a line to the left ear, across to the right eye, down to the mouth, left eye, right ear, left nostril. You are a child, and the face has seven holes. Blink on it. Seven blinks. Her deep black eyes. One two three four moving mouth. Five six seven. In gym class, a volleyball hits you in the face. Your eye swells. “Is that why you’re blinking so much,” someone says. She leans her face in. Seven fourteen twenty-one twenty-eight this behavior is evident. You look like an idiot. Thirty-five forty-two forty-nine. Her moving lips. Fifty-six sixty-three her face has seven holes. Seventy. Did she say something? Draw a star. Blink on it.  


Cynthia Marie Hoffman’s first book, Sightseer, won the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize in Poetry. Her second book, Paper Doll Fetus, is forthcoming from Persea Books in 2014. Hoffman has been a Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the recipient of a Wisconsin Arts Board Individual Artist Fellowship, and a Director’s Guest at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy. Her work has appeared as an Intro Feature in Pleiades, an internal chapbook in Mid-American Review, and in Fence, The Missouri Review, The Journal, and elsewhere.