Note from My Mother

Jeff Hoffman
Let’s talk about
your long-lost lion puppet,

the one true creature
you could not live without.

Did you know I x-actoed
the grasslands of his mane

from the Sunday funnies?
Did you know that his eyes

were not marbles at all?
Did you know I pierced

a black-eyed pea with a needle
and made it his nose?

Did you know we all live for a time
as creatures abandoned? Bring back

the ketchup bottle that you fitted
with a wig. Bring back the cocoons

noosed to the lid of a pickle jar;
the eyelashed mouth

of the venus flytrap; the newts
and tadpoles; the wood tick,

its perfume-bottle grave.
Did you know we all live

all our lives with coins on our eyes?
Did you know that your puppet

wasn’t a lion at all
until you called him a lion?

I made him no one creature
in particular; he was cloth

with a face, and his gumball eyes
were sweet when you licked them

and gone in a day.

More by Jeff Hoffman

Handshake Histories

          Summer, 1983


They're locked together outside a gift shop outside
the Badlands: a statue Indian shaking hands
with a statue cowboy. The Indian's head feathers

hang down, subdued; the cowboy's hat tilts up at the front—
invitation, forgiveness. His six-shooter, holstered, juts out
from the wood, and I trace it, guiding two fingers

along a well-worn stream that ends at the Indian's leather
vest tassels: When I touch them they should be soft
but are not. My family floats somewhere apart from me;

I do not think of my family. The Indian
creeps into the mist of a forest, lifts his hatchet
toward a rustle in the distance. The cowboy kicks

the ribs of his horse, wrecks onward through a blizzard
of dust. And far away the speck of Rushmore's faces
scoured—by sun, by wind—one layer more lean.