Poetry of Roald Hoffmann


A soliton is
a singularity
of wave
motion, an edge
traveling just
that way. We saw
one, once
filmed moving heed-
lessly cross
a platinum surface.
Solitons pass

You are a wave.
Not standing, nor
traveling, satisfying
no equation.
You are a wave
which will not be (Fourier)
You are a wave; in
your eyes I sink

Not solitons,
we can't pass through


I think the chaparral
grows at night, starkly

violating the laws
of photosynthesis; for

in the moon's stringent
light there are only

vital signs - this splurge
of wild animal fur,

glistening green-black
off the pale hills' grass

ground. What life, owls'
haunt, the refulgent, oily

blackness of a bee swarm
on the way to a new hive.

The chaparral is moving,
the chaparral may be

moving, unseen, hollow
to hollow every night.


Come, Mr. Gottlieb, you can do it,
I know. And I did - skin the others
for this pink-cheeked German gentleman.
For he had good reasons, barbed wire,
and he did give me true instruction,
the word, a manual. And he put
in my hand the knife cut from an old
ram's horn. Practice on deer,
if you like, he said, and - there
were deer in the fence, and the knife
with the old letters carved in the bone
slipped through the fat, sticking
in just a few places. They taught me well.
And he, well-dressed, his shoes polished,
stood on the side, watching, and I knew
he'd go on to ask me to skin myself.
For him I could learn even that.


As first I sail
in, in tense desire
in you I find
a glistening shore
a dock, a place
as sure to please as
rest in and there
to be entire. And
as our moist palms
press and you rise up
on waves that soar
and crest, I know
you are my air
and water island
my tropic home


The old men say
the sky was once so close
that if you shot an arrow up
it would bounce back at you. The sky
swallowed birds. Sometimes it lay
like the luxuriating fog
just above our tents
and a man could climb
to the opening at the top, where the smoke went out
and talk to the gods.
Then the redwoods came, sacrificing
all to the main trunk, and
they jacked up the sky,
and then men with balloons and telescopes
pushed it back further,
so it became difficult to talk straight to the gods,
one had to yell, or use the intercession of shamans.
Now I have flown myself across the Pacific,
seen the deep sky blue at 30,000 ft.
They say a man has walked on the moon. They
say the earth is getting warmer.
I see smog, the sky coming back down over California.


The grasses
figured it out
many winds ago: you can trust
the moving ocean of air.
So their sex
is all superficial,
just a lot of stamens
wavin' in the breeze
letting go.
Lower on the same stem
nets of stigmas
sift the genebearing
air. There's a tryst in the wind. Later
these organs
will wither, brown, the seed
oh, all for the seed,
grow. You can see the oats'
seedpods pendant,
like a school of feeding fish, then
the unobserved snap, out, the awn's
long hard awl of a point emerging
surprisingly part of the seed.
A lure is cast
on the fluid air,
fishing for ground below.
And the wind, what does it get
for all this matchmaking and delivery?
Some oxygen for its body; a spirit,
the bearable lightness of pollen;
the grass' sough, its sole sound;
a shape for itself, lolloping madly
up slope.