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Broken Nights

Michael Hofmann, 3 April 2003

... Then morning comes, saying: ‘This was a night.’ Robert Lowell Broken knights. – No, not like that. Well, no matter. Something agreeably Tennysonian (is there Any other kind?) About ‘broken knights’. Sir Bors and Sir Bedivere. In my one-piece pyjamas – My it doesn’t matter suit, With necessarily non-matching – Matchless, makeless, makeles – Added top, I pad Downstairs to look At the green time On the digital microwave ...

Two Poems

Michael Hofmann, 30 August 2018

... Old Mexico They can’t get enough of the indecent toy skeletons in copulo every which way, the perpetual action heroes, the cast-off clothes with writing on them, the mufla and vulcanizadora shops, the girls in bathtub jeans from no label they ever heard of, no film without Schwarzenegger or Willis, wrought iron and tin mirrors, sad tenor crooners over brass, caja de ahorros (chamber of horrors), joyerias (brothels), the prettier the place the uglier the music, the men growing more and more like themselves, the women more and more like the men, an orange balancing on an orange balancing on an orange, no dry stick poking out of the ground without a flower, and those flagrant skeletons – like there’s no tomorrow ...

Three Poems

Michael Hofmann, 10 February 1994

... Doctors I think he must have foreseen everything, even this: his name, ‘Dr Gen Hofmann’ – mortuary punctilio! – in brass, himself tipped up in a medium coffin, a mite of disgust on his face while the other side of the plateglass two children, windowshopping, gawp at their first corpse. There wasn’t, as he discovered, a career in it, but he never underestimated the morbidity of children ...

In the Realm of the Senses

Michael Hofmann, 16 February 1984

... One perfunctory fuck on our first night, then nothing for ever ... only jokes and hard lines, cold water, mushy soap and sleep that never comes. We hurt with tiredness, and are abashed by our dirt. We fall further behind the days, our overnighted systems struggle with smoke and sights and consommations. The yellow Citröen sits up and fills its lungs, a black and white green-backed mongrel sees us off ...

Days of 1985

Michael Hofmann, 19 December 1985

... Warm air and no sun – the sky was like cardboard, the same depthless no-colour as the pavements and buildings. It was May, and pink cherry blossoms lay and shoaled in the gutter, bleeding as after some wedding ... Broken glass, corrugated tin and spraygunned plywood saying Arsenal rules the world. Twenty floors up Chantry Point, the grey diamond panels over two arsoned windows were scorched like a couple of raised eyebrows ...

The Late Richard Dadd, 1817-1886

Michael Hofmann, 4 December 1986

... The Kentish Independent of 1843 carried his pictures of his father, himself and the scene of his crime. The first photo-journalist: fairy-painter, father-slayer, poor, bad, mad Richard Dadd. His extended Grand Tour took in the Holy Land and ended in Bethlem Hospital, with its long panoptical galleries, spider-plants, whippets and double-gaslights. He had outlived himself at twenty-six ...

The Machine that Cried

Michael Hofmann, 3 April 1986

... il n’y a pas de détail Valéry When I learned that my parents were returning to Germany, and that I was to be jettisoned, I gave a sudden lurch into infancy and Englishness. Carpets again loomed large in my world: I sought out their fabric and warmth, where there was nowhere to fall ... I took up jigsaw puzzles, read mystical cricket thrillers passing all understanding, even collected toy soldiers and killed them with matchsticks fired from the World War One field-guns I bought from Peter Oborn down the road – he must have had something German, with that name – who lived alone with his mother, like a man ...

Two Poems

Michael Hofmann, 25 October 1990

... Aerogrammes, 1-5 It felt like my life talking to me – after two months, talking to me again – saying it had bought a new duvet but was still dithering on the matter of children, that it had been seeing a lot of its friends – it wondered whether it was truly in love with me – and had enjoyed some pleasantly successful moments at work, but it wasn’t eating or sleeping properly, and was talking far too much ...

Three Poems

Michael Hofmann, 21 July 1994

... Summer For months the heat of love has kept me marching Robert Lowell I snap my boy’s bow in the morning, wash his stiffy at night, blow my brains out with music, anything from ‘Ballade von der sexuellen Hörigkeit’ to ‘Sexual Healing’. Je te veux. The vaunted sod under my feet is rolled up like a piece of turf or a blanket in my grenadier’s knapsack, along with a toothbrush and near-pristine candle end ...

Letter from Australia

Michael Hofmann, 9 October 2008

... to Ralph Savarese The early worm gets the bird – it’s morning in Australia. It’s strange to be so bilious so far away. Little to do with Australia, which so far as I can see seems mostly delightful: airy pastel buildings and trees I can’t name. There is some peculation among the local pols, mainly relegated to the business section: a few million hectares rightly or wrongly grazed or mined ...

Two Poems

Michael Hofmann, 27 July 2017

... Ebenböckstrasse for my mother A plaster – piece of sticking plaster – on the wall Where the doorknob of the cold-water bathroom door might hit. Has hit. A bruise in the other kind of plaster, a dent. Mend and make do. Guest bathroom, if you will. It never gets any better; just an embarrassing display of solicitude. A naked concern with wear, like mylar or antimacassar ...

Derrick

Michael Hofmann, 19 February 2015

... That rather sprawling foursquare spelling. Always in my mind half- associated with the hirsute 14-year-old I saw in the newspaper who sued his local education authority to keep his beard from a sort of medical necessity. My neighbour took up residence next to this youth in my head. Derrick. Clean-shaven, Welsh, heavyset, lugubrious, his steel-grey hair apparently parted by a steel comb ...

H.H., 95

Michael Hofmann, 4 March 2021

... An anemometer tiptoesin a nothing breeze. Allez, circulez.Three eggcups sidewise.A beech hedge shieldsthe ugly new development from sight.An ankle thicker than a thigh.‘It’s all ascesis, from here on in.’A drip from the upstairs balcony(the surplus from their geraniums)convulses her potted lemon,industrious thrushes turn overevery dry leaf in the shrubbery,looking for God knows what ...

Two Poems

Michael Hofmann, 2 July 1981

... Museum Piece The room smells of semen. The leather curtain that hangs in the doorway to keep the men from the boys is now flapping like a ventilator ... People crowd in to see the erotic drawings. Yonis in close-up like a row of fingerprints. – Hokusai’s hairfine precipice technique applied to pubic hair. Fingers do the walking, tiny feet wave in mid-air ...

Two Poems

Michael Hofmann, 17 November 1983

... Campaign Fever We woke drugged and naked. Did our flowers rob us and beat us over the head while we were asleep? They were competing for the same air as us – the thick, vegetable breath of under the eaves. It seems like several days ago that I went to see you to your train. A cuckoo called and our vision drizzled, though the air was dry. In a place I’d never noticed before, a low siren was sounding alternate notes ...

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