The Affair of the Poisons
They said there was a garden
filled with the remains of two thousand infants.
I suppose I’ve avoided saying much
concerning the Occult.
I had an acquaintance obsessed
with learning some method by which she might
communicate with her late sister,
though having known her late sister,
I strained to imagine
what was, to her, so urgent
about conjuring that particular woman.
There were professionals in this regard.
Fortune tellers and alchemists. Black Masses.
When tensions were high, they rounded up the lot of them
and charged them with witchcraft.
Aphrodisiacs were of great interest.
I never used them. Poisons
were called “inheritance powders.”
There were risks, to be sure. And punishments not commensurate
with the level of passion or the level of reward.
A woman was burned at the stake for conducting a séance.
A man poisoned his brother-in-law and got a duchy.
In Campo Aperto
I lean against the lime-tree and watch
as crows come down from their branches to the sun-ruined field,
arranging themselves in the dry grass like ink-strokes
on a yellowed score. It is summer.
I am humming to myself, my back to the bark.
Somewhere, like a listless river, is a way
of forgetting. My fist loosens—
perhaps I’ve forgotten how often we betrayed one another.
Whatever grain I am carrying, you come to claim it,
like a wild crow eating from my hand.
Richie Hofmann is the author of Second Empire (Alice James Books, 2015), winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award. He is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship, and his poems appear in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The New Republic, and Poetry. He is co-editor of Lightbox Poetry, an online educational resource for students and teachers of contemporary poetry.