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[Poetry] Two Poems by Sharon Hoffman




Where is that joy

of swimming underwater,

counting the bars

of the grate

twelve feet down?

Where are the hot lungs

that hold and hold with

the sweet determination of

a woman about to come

breaking through

the scalded surface, breaking

through the lip of water

into the air

as sharp as alcohol?



The Knife Against the Wave


When you were born, your skin

seemed jaundiced.

They ordered bloodwork,

and a giant of a man took

your foot – no bigger than

his thumb – and nicked your heel

with the corner of a razor blade,

over and over and over,

squeezing your soft flesh for

the smallest spots of blood.

This was the first time

the world would hurt you

and make me watch

your suffering. I told that man,

Enough! Touch her again,

And I'll kill you. 

I was ready to come

across the table and strangle him.

He shook his head.

No, little mother, he said

in the tenderest voice. I must

hurt her just a little more.


Last night I dreamed I stood

waist-deep in the ocean,

holding a kitchen knife

against each wave. Walls

of water, scalloped like the knife,

surged forward. But I commanded

that the waves divide and

let you pass unscathed.

The water broke around me

as I tried to slice each wave

in half for you. I stood there,

calm and resolute, making certain

I kept the sharp edge out.




Sharon Weightman Hoffmann is a writer based in Atlantic Beach, Florida. She is a former editor of Kalliope, a journal of women’s art. Publications include New York Quarterly, Beloit Poetry Journal, Alice Walker: Critical Perspectives (Harvard University Press), Isle of Flowers (Anhinga Press), South Florida Poetry Journal, Letters, Poetica, Wild Roof, Sho, Qu, and other magazines. Awards include fellowships from Atlantic Center for the Arts and Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs, and two Pushcart nominations.


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