Erin Hoover was a finalist for the 2017 Neil Shepard Prize in Poetry


Some mornings at my office in Midtown,
post-9/11, shopping bags appeared
on my desk. In them, four-inch Louboutins,
a vintage bomber, Japanese stationary,
a Dior tote stuck with a Post-it, reading,
Toujours, Vincent. A buyer for Bendel’s
in the ‘80s, he trolled couture auctions
when our boss was out. We sucked down
cigarettes on our breaks as flyover families,
eyes suctioned to the lenses of their
cameras, ambled among the drug fiends
scraping past on their daily haunt between
Penn Station and Port Authority.
We traded stories: his week lost to dope
in Paris for the morning I woke naked
on a rooftop ringed by butts and shards.
Marianne, Vincent called me. I was
the girl who swang from one Jagger clone
to the next, slim-hipped men who stepped
from doorways like rock stars deplane,
their bodies elegant and threatening
as the haunches of a horse. Being young
is living outside of time
, Vincent said,
as we ate BLTs on the street, mayo
gumming the cracks of his oracular mouth.
Don’t ever get old. I laughed, no idea
how it would one day feel, each year
peeling away a layer of girlish skin,
as I found fresh ways to sneer at dramas
my younger friends pined over,
You think that hurts? Today, years
from my last dance floor, I’d bathe
in virgin blood to stop feeling so wise.
Like my friend Vincent, I’ve got gifts now,
no one to give them to. He died early,
a heart attack in Harlem a year after
I’d moved out west, and no one
thought to pick up the phone. I had to
return to New York to hear it, and in
the spirit of toujours, to ask,
in this city towering with luxuries,
what thing could I possibly give someone?
If and when that friend arrives, let me
slip my present easily, sans ceremony,
over their bare shoulders.

If You Are Confused About Whether a Girl Can Consent

            … see if she can speak an entire sentence.
                                        —Emily Doe

I find an earring in the bar
bathroom sink, last thing

I remember, then lose eight hours
in its drain. When I come to,

I’m hailing a cab. Sense gathers
in its backseat, tiny globes of water

condensing on a cold glass. I woke
sand-eyed, sprawled out

on the sidewalk, my limbs
barely beyond the heavy foot traffic

of an avenue. Who knows how many
stepped over or around me

to pass. Who taught me to brush
myself off and step toward

a cab’s lights, give my address
in such even tones? Once home,

I check my skirt, no rips in it,
my workaday panties untorn

and practical as ever, my silence
bigger than this enormous gyre

of a city razed and rebuilt
each day by skyscraper

cranes. No bruises, no trace.
If I’ve been hurt, someone’s put

the pieces back. Next morning,
I walk to work as usual,

the sidewalk whirling with receipts
and wrappers like snowflakes

made of garbage. Every party
has a fulcrum, everyone in control

and then no one. I look for one
clear moment to crowbar open,

recall an off-tune chord of laughter,
a baby face with a beard. Walking now,

my legs are dumb objects,
the space between elastic enough

to swallow all the men in New York,
or none of them, or one.

There’s nothing I can report.
It’s as though the night and its events

were projected on a screen behind me,
outside my field no matter

which way I turned. Like the plot
of a film you can’t quite make out,

though you hear its gunshots
and screeching car tires from outside

the theater doors. Any sentence
I imagine I would have spoken

buried too far for the throat,
the lungs, the cunt, to reach.


Erin Hoover
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