The Distance, Hailstorm

The Distance

On the subway platform, that man
with tissue stuck to his chin once lived

at the crux of another woman’s
dreams. She knew him in the bitter

back of her throat, femoral pulse,
pop of her ovaries. But now,

between them, clear cut
of forests, parking lots, hinterland

where generations live entire lives
and are buried. If only we

could meet where nobody else
touched us. For you, I cross

tracts of burnt-out buildings,
boiling seas, but call them

by their right names:
husks of your mother, my father,

affairs curdled by so many sins.
That man pumping gas, marked

by a scrub of black hair,
once lit his lover’s whole body

like morning. You ask whether
I believe people are basically good,

but I am the new pink skin
edging the cut: I say yes.



Thrown down on Cornelia Street,
hail pelts awnings, bounces up
pant legs, the sky churning
and lidded with clouds.
The crowd rushes into
the subway mouth on West 4th.
Newspaper held over
our heads. Unread headlines
pummeled to sodden mush.
Ice melts to rivulets down
arms and legs, flows into gutters.
We are people in a panic,
laughing in the yellow lamplight
before it flickers out. We are
drowning, like our ancestors
before us, the children to come.
Scientists don’t know why the sky
backlights itself in hailstorms,
where that sea-green glow
so like the earth’s pulse
comes from. Wind blows
up and inside my jacket,
buffets me like the raindrop
of five minutes ago,
swinging up in the atmosphere
to freeze and refreeze.
It grows from pea to peanut,
walnut to hen egg, the grapefruit
we also use to measure tumors.
I have never been colder in my life.
That too will be forgotten.


Erin Hoover is a poet living in Tallahassee, Florida, and a Ph.D. student in Florida State University’s Creative Writing Program, where she is assistant editor of The Southeast Review and volunteers for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. She grew up in Pennsylvania along America’s longest non-navigable river, the Susquehanna.