Today's poem is by Jeff Hoffman


Her brother's Plymouth
in the middle of the ocean

bound for Estonia,
where leaded gasoline

still leaks onto the broken
streets of Virtsu,

where mothers tie lanterns and bells
to the wrists of their children,

a string of bouncing lights
through the forest to school.

Before he left, she and her brother
had spent a day ripping out

the catalytic converter:
They made his car toxic again.

She said why help everyone else?
He waved his rust-covered hands

in the air. He shrugged his shoulders.
He drank the last of the ginger wine.

Her brother patching a slate roof.
Her brother driving a tractor.

Her brother with the wolves
and a village of ice-blue eyes.

Is it concern or envy?
Her brother: unmarried, childless,

while her daughter's toys
overflow into the neighbor's yard —

Sit 'n Scoot, soccer ball, tricycle.
The things you leave behind

and everything else
that surrounds you.

The part you take out
to poison a stranger's child

in a country you'll never visit.
Everything seems indecent now.

The schoolchildren freeze
in Soviet concrete

while her brother teaches them
please; thank you; the potatoes

are no good this year.
The schoolchildren are icicles

and chipped lead paint.
The schoolchildren drag her brother

to an abandoned strip mine.
Her brother keeps reaching

under the earth. Is it love
or a man digging lumps of coal

no one will ever use?

Copyright © 2011 Jeff Hoffman All rights reserved
from Journal of American Foreign Policy
New Issues Poetry & Prose
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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