Richard Hoffman

What Good



The fruit,


the red fruit

that wants to fall —


I am that one.

Sarah Hannah, “Cicatrix”


I wonder;

are there things I can say

to you now — as if

to you now — I could not


before? After,


there seems more silence,



the silence a suicide

imagines, a silence

perfected, as if


requiring the living

speak. But


the amplitude

of that invitation,

the generosity of it,


everyone welcome,


was not yours, friend,

to give. Thief


of a nullity capacious

beyond imagining,


what good does it do us,

I wonder,

to hear its echoing


of a voice, as if

from a well,

as if from the earth,


as if, perhaps,

yours, perfected,


when it is only our own

still failing

to know what to say.



Someone says, again, “She took her life,”

and I object. You refused your life.

Am I too harsh? I know I can’t know.


But how do I cordon off thoughts

of my two young brothers life refused?

I see them still, in the struggle for breath.


Restraint, I fear, with its many small refusals,

was not for you; the many evenings, one

eye on the weather, putting on your coat


and going home were not for you, nor

the polite excuses; only the one inarguable

and forever private reason you seem to have


had all along. I am trying not to see you

on the sidewalk, lights flashing, yellow

tape, crackling radios. The day I heard,


all I could do was look up at rooftops

and think that something was wrong

with who you thought you were,


or were supposed to be, not who

you were, who you had expertly become.

It left room for argument though,


and argument was what I needed then.

You murdered my colleague, Sarah,

who was becoming my friend,


and you got away with it. And even now

I’m never sure if I am arguing

for the defense or prosecution.



Confusion, fine, of course,

but why like a fond old father

has grief come, opening its arms?


Why are you here, old man?

You’re mistaken. Go away.

I didn’t know her that well.



Where is it written a woman

who throws back her head to laugh,

showing her teeth to the sun with such joy

she has to wipe her eyes

would not, would never?


Where is it written a woman

with a backpack of books

chosen for each of her students,

thumbs hooked through the straps,

humping the weight of their need

on her narrow shoulders

would not, would never?


Where is it written a woman

wise in the ways of pleasure,

quick to jest, to groan at a pun

she could not resist, to suggest

a poet, a film, a restaurant,

would not, could not, would never?



Were there a limbo where

those who were loved

but could not dare

believe it go, then saved

from harm you’d be there,


the door to the roof

locked, on the cold stair,

in a moment’s reprieve,

hands in your hair,

still able to conceive,


then, of us, here,

and how sadly we’d move

through irrevocable air,

and it would be enough,

almost, to forestall despair.



Beauty pursued, I hear you:

better to be the crooked tree,

the bitter, indigestible root,

a berry too tart for even birds,

a pepper too hot, a poison.

Best if you can to be no one.

Some say they had noted

like a bulge under your coat,

a pause and a look in your eye,

odd screech in your laugh,

torn cuticle, a strange new way

you moved. Chemicals, neurons,

history — afraid: no one is known,

impressions of presentations,

no one not imagined, myth.

Red fruit fallen in shade.

(I hear you.) No one to blame.

No one in need of forgiveness.


i.m. Sarah Hannah, 1966-2007


Join the conversation