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Midnight in Iowa.

 It's 1 AM on the east coast and midnight in Iowa
when the Russian lawyer with a house in Newark
and an office in the city sends me an e-mail:
"Your writing is so emotional yet so detached.
It's wonderful." I respond without delay:
"Dear Oleg, I don't know how you got my e-mail address,
but I'm glad you enjoyed my work.
You're not the first person to say it's detached.
If you only knew! Just before I got your message
I was thinking about the tattoo on my husband's thigh that says
  'Fuck This Life.'
We met for dinner a few months after he moved out
and as he undressed back at the apartment,
there it was, a stick-and-poke from a friend.
It was almost Christmas,
days later he surprised me with a tree
when he came over to walk the dogs.
A few days into the New Year, I left a tray of rat poison out
in the middle of the kitchen floor.
When I came home with the dogs the apartment was dark,
I went into the bedroom and forgot about it
until I heard Kelly chewing it.
My husband let me use the car on the weekends
and I drove seventy over the 59th Street Bridge
to the 24-hour animal hospital,
the three dogs quiet in the back.
I called him, shouting over the elevated train, and he met me.
The dogs were getting their stomachs pumped when he showed up.
The doctor brought us into a small examination room and sat us down at
   a table.
My husband sweated.
'What happened?' the doctor asked.
I said, 'I forgot I left it out.'
He said, 'We got pellets out of Kelly.'
The dogs slept on the ride home.
My husband walked us upstairs and sat on the couch.
He didn't want to spend the night.
And then I thought of the time I woke up next to him and he was crying.
We'd met just a few weeks before. I asked him, 'What's
And he said, 'Sometimes I realize how sick I am.'
He had a 2-in-l, pacemaker and defibrillator.
A few years before we met he began fainting when he was out with friends
but thought he was doing too much coke.
The defibrillator sits above the muscle, it's the leads--the wires
that go into the heart--that make it a slow recovery.
We were married when the battery ran out and he had it replaced.
I could feel a wire through the skin, it curved out of the device, into
   a vein.
It only went off once when he raced a friend down the block outside his
        parents' house.
He said he fell to the ground, he could feel it working.
It felt like someone running her fingers over a harp in his chest."
"Dear Strummer:
I have a client who's suing New York Presbyterian for the death of
She's in a coma for the rest of her life, her doctors gave her the
She's deprived of sight, smell, hearing, and all locomotion.
It's a horror. Yet no one wants to take her off the ventilator or
   feeding tube.
I imagine it would be easier for you to take a loved one off life
        since you're a poet.
From what I see, you're not hysterical,
and everything that happens to you becomes explicable
once it's in one of your poems. Do you agree?
Yours, Oleg."
"Dear Oleg, I avoid philosophizing.
I don't want to know why I write poems, or how.
I'm not the poem's master and fate doesn't enter in to
That poor woman in New York.
I hope you win the case and have them rolling in it.
Funny you should mention her--I met a palliative care nurse out here
who's worked with the comatose.
She washed them once a day, swabbed their mouths out,
and shaved the men's faces unless they came in with a beard.
The nurse didn't know what to say
the first time a patient asked for her mother on her deathbed.
It happens all the time, but back then she couldn't believe it,
she froze looking straight in the face of the old woman in her bed,
whose white hair stuck straight up, whose eyes were dim and foggy,
the nurse was afraid to touch her, afraid her touch wouldn't be a
        mother's touch,
and so she said softly, 'She's here, right next to

Strummer Hoffston is a miter living in New York City. She's the recipient of fellowships from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she earned her M.F.A. in 2017. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Fence, Salt Hill, and Epiphany, where she was winner of the 2016 Emerging Writers Prize.
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Title Annotation:TWO POEMS
Author:Hoffston, Strummer
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Mar 1, 2019
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