Cold Requiem

Tonight the harbor is the sea: waves
thunder, detonate on rocks, slosh
over the seawall. The glaring moon
has dissolved the stars.
Few others are out, it is so cold.

If I walk to the end of the pier
in this eye-watering wind, boards shuddering
under me, might I find what to say
to my friends, mourning their daughter?

If this night has any advice,
it’s in a language I don’t understand.

My children are alive and healthy.
How can my words not hurt?

The question is a cloud of breath.


Click here to read Richard Hoffman on the origin of the poem.

Image: Photo by Aleks Dahlberg on Unsplash, licensed under CC 2.0.

Richard Hoffman:
“Cold Requiem” is a simple poem, really.

Who ever knows what to say to the grieving? It’s the arrogance of the poet to think that I might come up with something that would soothe my friends for their loss. It was all I could do to contain my own feelings about it, which were largely an inordinate sadness, since I hadn’t seen her since she was a child, a playmate of my son’s, and an outsized rage at the manner of her death: the result of an opioid addiction.

I kept trying to find a way to address this wrenching tragedy that would be a balm, a consolation, and I kept encountering the impossibility of that, along with the violence of my own emotions.

I think of the poem as a failure, the record of a failure, the attempt to make at least something of that failure, even if only a record of it.

Richard Hoffman
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