Issue 14 • 2011



from The American Eye


by Eric Hoffman





The people here are good witnesses

To the past.  They sense a hidden weight

Behind each act, they move as if

Some unseen principle discloses to them

The way tomorrow should unfold.

And yet the utility of their acts

Disturbs me and makes me wonder

If perhaps it is humanity’s condition

To disown its past, to forget its implications —

The fountain of Aretheuse

Being used as a wash basin.





In the Capuchin gardens, the monk

Took us to an arch under which

Athenian prisoners recited the verse


Of Euripedes in exchange for their life.

And they say verse is of no practical value

Or use.  From there, the monk led us inside


The convent and fed us bread, olives and wine.

I told the Padre I would stay here forever

If they would only offer me a room.





The river Anupis, a narrow puddle,

About an oar’s length, fabled

In Cyane’s song, there Proserpine

Gathered flowers and no wonder.

They are so many.





Signor Ricciardi of Syracuse gave me

A letter to Padre Anselmo Adorno,

Celleraio of the monastery at St. Agatha

In Carania, which sits at the base


Of Aetna, at once a monument and a warning.

The vows of poverty and humility

Cost these monks nothing: its walls

Adorned with famous paintings, the organ


That imitates, sackbut and psaltery.

Beneath is buried its maker.

Gazing upon its many wonders,

I begin to think the architects


Of American churches had never seen

Those of Europe, or they would not

Be content with such simple edifices.

The Puritan restraint at work I suppose.





Eric Hoffman has been published in Talisman, Rain Taxi, Smartish Pace, Cultural Society, Poetry Flash and in Jacket.  In 2009 he edited a George Oppen festschrift, All This Strangeness, for Big Bridge.