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  • The Gilt Mirror
  • Emily Hoffman (bio)

In the tradition of aunts and nieceswe were traveling on the continent,and, as in the tradition, she had no child;we slept in one room, in one bed.

What of men? I would sit in the hotel windowin Paris, looking at the people on the street below—they held no interest.

I had graduated high school.I was approaching a boundarywith the future, which seemed to mea barren and luminous expanse,free of the habitual constraintsbut free also of figure, shape,or subdivision.

We drove to the south.Fields of poppy, fields of lavender.She ran her hands up the stalksto get the scent off the blossomsand then gave me her hand to smell.

She was easy with her hands.She would touch strangers,lay her hand familiarly on the forearmof the grocer when she mistakenly askedfor pepper, instead of for a pear.

We continued south, down to the coast.The Roman amphitheater at Arles,Arles of the sunflowers, of the thick yellow application.We climbed to the highest ring. [End Page 63]

The perimeter encircled the arenabut you could look out the other way over the land,the countryside: lighter squares and darker—

My aunt embraced me.Her lips were smooth and dryagainst my neck.

She seemed to believeI would have something resembling a normal life,though her assurances were very general, having rarelyto do with my qualities or what theyin particular might necessitate or elicit.

We returned to our roomwith its canopied bed, the ornate bureau,and gilt mirror.

I made her talk about men.Made? She was happy to.

She closed her eyesto give herself more fullyto the task of memory.

I didn't face her; she was stroking my hair.

Framed by gold brancheswe regarded each other.Dark eyes, dark hair.She touched my cheek.Thirty years passed between uslike a sleeping kingdom.

I remember looking out the window at the darkgarden, the moonlit garden.I imagined myself walking through itfull of feeling, as I was, [End Page 64] the wet quality of the moonlight.

But the moonlight was also containedin the bed, which had the advantageof being warm.

I slept very soundly.It now seems a miracle to methat I ever woke up. [End Page 65]

Emily Hoffman

Emily Hoffman's poems have been published by BOMB, Prodigal, The Threepenny Review, and The New Republic. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Anthropology at Columbia University.



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