Issue X, Volume IV : June 2013
James Hoch has worked as a dishwasher, cook, dockworker, social worker and shepherd. His poems have appeared in Slate, Kenyon Review, Gettysburg Review, Carolina Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review and many others. He is the recipient of fellowships and scholarships from Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and Summer Literary Seminars, and received a 2007 NEA grant as well as a grant from the PA Council on the Arts. Miscreants was published by WW Norton in June, 2007. A Parade of Hands won the Gerald Cable Award and was published in March 2003 by Silverfish Review Press. He resides in Nyack, NY with his wife and son and teaches at Ramapo College of NJ.
Marina Bar and Grill
You have to be a bit misnomered to survive
the hem of Arctic dipping into upper Alabama.
You have to not blink the least at a pickup’s
lights dressed in the opacity of snowfall.
If there were boats here, they’d skirt across
the icy highway, God-sized shuffleboard.
If there was a body of water anywhere near,
it would be skatable, if anyone owned skates.
So much for weather suiting your clothes.
So much for the heart’s utility kilt.
You know spent nights listening to sparrows
nesting under the deck’s plastic cover,
or pecking a puck of frozen dog dish water.
You know the you here is unclaimed, lonely
as nearly everyone you know drifts
into the parking lot, one redundantly lonely you
after another, freighting, lurching toward
a fracas, a flotilla of loneliness, of urge–
that riotous ocean a juke joint holds,
that warble, that gawky call we all haul.
The Idea of Hats
As in Panama, as in Roosevelt and Ruben Blades,
as in the taste of the sea’s salt-stung sweet decay,
though they’re made in Ecuador from toquilla,
a leaf men gather from the forest and mule back
to their village where they hammock and smoke
and watch women strip and bleach reeds, sing
what songs there ever were for working, eying
each finely into form, though it’s not in their hands
once the hat’s boxed and gone to market, shipped
out of port to float in the ether of speculation.
They’re in again, says the haberdasher on Flatbush,
a flat screen gyrating as indexes buckle and glitter.
It seems the farthest thing from a hat, but a thing is
what you do with it, the way Sandino could fit
a revolution inside a cowboy hat. And didn’t you
fall for it, twenty two, you in your frayed hat,
a Post-Punk Huck Finn rafted out of New Jersey,
smuggling computers into Managua, in love
with the idea of being caught in CIA photographs.
Love, or else you would not have wept seeing
your ideology slip out to sea. No one likes
losing one’s mind, mad or not, in gilded books
from the 19th century nor at Monopoly.
But you had no idea the wooden-shoed Wob
would become the top-hatted Banker, the once-
goateed Marxist now Born Again and Again
how easily one trades kindness for truth.
There is pleasure in being the other, trying
even as the skin takes a trace of mercury, pleasure
and killing all along the spine of the Americas,
in peasant hats on the streets of Chiapas,
in baseball caps on the heads of landscapers
tending the neighbor’s yard, in the wide brim
your wife wears as she turns a new garden,
which startles you – how lovely she is– the woman
that was the girl years ago your good conviction
quickly sickened. It is the same love, whether
watching her heel a shovel or imagining her
kneeling close to a row of bramble, fitting a berry
between finger and thumb, placing the ripe
in a hat’s upturned palm, until the palm becomes
a mirror, and the mirror tells a story, and the story
wends a life, one thing wasting into another,
waving and letting go, the way to the open sea.