REBECCA HOOGS.November 2018


Photo by Jeff Sirkin



How strange—business cards at a shrine.

This one desires luck

in cutting my hair.

This one desires luck

in selling me a house.

Have I been as honest?

On the road to the shrine

there were barbecued sparrows

spread-eagled over coals.

They were seared black

as their shadow once was,

twitter spitting deliciously.

My mouth watered for one

but I couldn’t say so.

Everywhere has its own

the world’s largest ferris wheel.

I keep mine here

(touches chest)

but do not ride it.

I wish to cook without rice,

I replied. We both knew

I meant an impossibility.


| top |

*** ** ***



This is a celebration of the disassembled:

We had a joke in our family, one tourist

says to the other and then says something

completely unfunny. Here, at the ruins

of Rome’s original port, a five o’clock shadow

of algae covers a mosaic of Mithras’ face.

Mithras was a sort of proto-Jesus.

Dude. Sorry your cult didn’t make it.

This place fell off the map

when the river moved right, said something

under its breath, out of the corner of its mouth.

The land forgot the taste of the sea,

its first industry. The joke was on Ostia

like a river is on land. How did it go?

We saw your mouth moving,

but couldn’t hear a single thread you said.


| top |

*** ** ***



In my mouth, there is an error cloud.

Take what I say with a grain of rain.

I don’t remember

the first time I ate a radish

only that they are part of this adult life

as was the flock of Stymphalian birds

that Hercules scared into air

by bronze castanets and shot.

Above, a rocket plugs the sky.

If I put this coin in you what will come out?

There is no pleasure

like eating a mollusk off the chest of Zeus.

A mummy of an ibis rides the mummy

of a man. This is a cautionary tale;

do not play the flute while angry.

Remove your turban, Winckelmann.

Reveal your great radish head; pull up

your most underground thoughts.

Who knew, when I put on my bird suit,

that I was that kind of bird?

When I get in the accident, I swear

I will wear a neckbrace of happiness.

Until then, I’ll plant wild strawberries

as if that were even possible.


| top |

*** ** ***



I’m an oval thought hammered

at a roundish hole. I’m a needle

and filigree. I’m an irregular exclamation,

a lowly halo upon a holy, flowy head.

Please note: I’m in my post-medieval period.

A tour group floods my soul,

uninterested in being interested.

I long for a place in the country–

a Rome away from Rome. A place

where I can be a foolish virgin again.

Where I don’t have to keep gilding

every silly lily, don’t have to put up

with putti, don’t always have to have

my face on. I’d like to go au naturel,

wear nothing but unhewn marble,

gold unslit from the mountain’s veins.


| top |

*** ** ***



That was the year snow consolidated its efforts and sent just one large flake.

When the sky was the overarching theme.

When I looked at us under a microscope and couldn’t say we were unique.

When we finally forgot all the running mates of all the presidents who never won.

When we taped a bumper sticker to the back window so as not to fully commit to belief.

When we kept time by the Viking ship at the fair.

When we kept a bottle of glycerin handy for the look of tears.

When the thunder felt round the bones.

When I pinned happiness to you as a corsage.

When we needed it yesterday.

When the stars were held in place with lead clamps.

When all the trucks wanted to know how they were doing.

When I was the terrible opposite of loose cannon.

When I was a small shot and did not stray dangerously.

When I kept my heavy heart to myself.

When I was the too much eyeliner on teenage girls.

When the boy on the ferry was practicing “In the Jungle” poorly on his recorder and I had to love him for it.

When I was the lamp store at night: lamp after lamp after lamp unlit.


| top |

*** ** ***




while hurtling,

drilling down

the way,

off to concrete

the next


to retain

the next knoll.

A giant urn

of unrest,

a gravely


a hard burn.

O mixer,

you and me,

if we stop

to think,

we get harder

than we

already are.


| top |

*** ** ***



One ax grazes

on wood, lifts its head,

sets to grazing again. Six shovels

bang their heads against the wall.

Three wheelbarrows upend,

wheels grazing the sky. What is most human

in all of this is this blue metal cover

set into asphalt saying “Water”

though it is not nor does not. It lies

out the side of its mouth, equivocates,

tells one thing to the sky, another

to the ground. What is not human

is the very center of this tree. What is human

is the fact that I can put my nose

to the very first ring, the sapling

at its freshly cut core. What is human

is the way we say “moss” as if it’s singular.

The moss knows it’s of many minds.

I know because ten years ago I was a mess

of minds, too: on the one hand, a rotting picnic table;

on the other, an anchor anchored

to an anchor. On the one hand a sign

saying “Caution: children at play,”

on the other, an empty bike rack

in the weeds. Today, cloudberries

on branches cantilever out

from the trunk offering tiny microclimates

of emotion for this human to stand in.

Every branch branches out. No good

branch has ever circled back.

My id is a black bear who mediates

the argument at the edge of the sea.

What is human is wondering

if the sea dreamt last night

and if so about what. It dreamt about

that reoccurring anxiety dream

that it missed the exam, missed

the exam, missed the exam

against the rocks. The rain

is trending downwards,

falls in our eyes

in order to be cried.


| top |

*** ** ***



–For Sierra


& now we are on a group rafting tour—

it seems we’re in New Zealand,

but then I ask you so this is Finland?

& so it is Finland it is

a long trip & we are building

our own rafts someone says

we are never more than a foot

from water & I am sitting at the edge

of the water & then yes in the water

yes I’m really in the water now I regret

coming on this trip but you are here

with me now in the back

of a foreign truck such strange trucks

in these foreign counties

such strange conveyances

these bodies you are taking

photos of the Finnish roads

from the back of the truck we are

bouncing unrestrained in the open beds

of trucks like we are children

before safety was invented

like we are children

the night before we have children


| top |


Rebecca Hoogs
is the author of Self-Storage (Stephen F. Austin University Press) which was a finalist for the 2013 Washington State Book Award in Poetry, and a chapbook, Grenade (GreenTower Press). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, AGNI, FIELD, Crazyhorse, Zyzzyva, The Journal, Poetry Northwest, The Florida Review, Cincinnati Review, and others. She won the 2010 Southeast Review poetry contest and is the recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and Artist Trust of Washington State. She is the Associate Director for Seattle Arts & Lectures and occasionally co-directs and teaches in the summer Creative Writing in Rome program for the University of Washington.


To download a printable PDF version of this page, click here.


| top |

November 2018.REBECCA HOOGS