Eve Hoffman ’64

Eve Hoffman, Smith College Class of 1964 and fifth-generation Georgian, loves dirt roads and Guernsey cream. She has no patience or energy for bigots and vitriol, especially in political life. Lying makes her angry, so do squirrels eating all of her tomatoes – but it’s a different kind of anger. She began writing poetry fifteen years ago. Previously, she founded a non-profit which, among other things, sponsored a writing competition for students across Georgia and published three volumes of their work. Among her published work, two chapbooks, Red Clay and SHE and an art/narrative book, A Celebration of Healing — stories of twenty models whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer to accompany Sal Brownfield’s paintings of them. Her full-length 134-page poetry book Memory & Complicity, Mercer University Press, was published in 2018, and she is nominated for Georgia Author of Year — Full-Length Poetry Collection category.
 

The Church – 1988

         Pantoum for Sal’s brother John  1952-1988

He came to the church for solace
the church of his parents, three brothers, and a sister
the church of Bach solos he sang as a boy
the choir loft always his sanctuary

in the church of his parents, three brothers, a sister
the church with two organs and eight thousand pipes
the choir loft always his sanctuary
the organ swells wrapping around him 

from the eight thousand pipes in the church
where, as a child, perfect pitch was his hallmark
the organ swells wrapping around him
in the church where, at thirty-six he came seeking peace

perfect pitch as a tenor still his hallmark in the choir
sixteenth-century tapestries softening the songs
in the church where he came seeking peace
the church with a sun-lit rose window

sixteenth century tapestries softening the songs
in the church where he came to for refuge
the church with a sun-lit rose window
the church that had been founded by abolitionists

the church where he came to for refuge
AIDS tracing his body, racing through lymph glands
as he walked into the church of abolitionists
with a sore on his back that wouldn’t heal

AIDS tracing his body, racing through lymph glands
pneumonia his constant companion
a sore on his that back wouldn’t heal
his breath giving out as he climbed up the stairs

pneumonia his constant companion
mind muddled with dementia
his breath giving out as he climbed up the stairs 
his design studio in a shambles

mind muddled with dementia
convinced the hot water faucet ran cold water
his design studio in a shambles
his guitar untouched in its case

convinced the hot water faucet ran cold water
harmonic triads no equal for the nightmares
his guitar unplayed in its case
his quick wit overcome by the terrors

harmonic triads no equal for the nightmares
Would family and friends now shun him?
his quick wit overcome by the terrors
seventeen thousand for drugs every month

Would family and friends now abandon him?
in his name no health insurance to be had
seventeen thousand for drugs every month
and a nurse told him what she would do,

if no health insurance in her name to be had
she’d get hold of a gun and end it all quickly
the nurse told him that’s what she’d do
so John came to the church for comfort

pondering if he should end it all quickly
and the minister counseled him
in the church where he’d come to for comfort
You are gay. I cannot help you

the minister counseled him
This is God’s revenge.
You are gay. I cannot help you still ringing in his ears
alone in his apartment two weeks later

in his head This is God’s revenge  
in his hands a gun he’d purchased at a flea market
alone in his apartment two weeks later
no one knows who’d taught John how to use it

the handgun he’d bought at a flea market
how to use it without leaving too gruesome a mess
no one knows who had taught him how
to hold it at the side of his jaw pointing up

so as not to leave too gruesome a mess
John came to the church in a wooden coffin
the gun at the side of his jaw had done its work
the church was brimming with flowers

when John came to the church in a wooden coffin
Ruby from the dry cleaners sobbing
in the church brimming with flowers
the local bank president slipping into a pew

Ruby from the dry cleaners sobbing
in the barrel-vaulted nearly-filled church
the local bank president slipping into a pew
gay friends uncertain about where they should sit

in the barrel-vaulted nearly-filled church
the minister who’d shunned John leading the service
gay friends uncertain about where they should sit
the minister inviting no eulogies

the minister who’d shunned John leading the service
in the church of Bach solos John sang as a boy
in the church where the minister invited no eulogies
in the church John had come to for solace

©  Eve Hoffman from Memory & Complicity, Mercer University Press 2018