Elizabeth Hoover

Cauda Equina

A man is time
propelling his bicycle within
the ocular disk of his own motion.

A woman crackles with lichen,
her body a finger print of hollows, her heart
a branch offering you a handkerchief.

Sometimes like objects lean in.
Sometimes one recoils, its motion
like a celebratory dance.

The man’s pelvis is topped
with a key that winds
so it ticks, but the tick

is time’s shadow, just as a boot
on the horizon elegizes
the fleeing of the escapee.

The woman knows about the clutch
of nerves where we never had
a tail. Why do girls love horses,

I wonder. Remember that book
about them crashing through the ocean,
remember learning we are meant

to lie completely still. That sorcery
of nerves snapped me shut when
you would pry me open,

my mind in a housedress and curlers
running back and forth in front
of a house fire, rescuing nothing.

Like the boot on the horizon
my body indicates something happened
but can’t tell the story. The man

continues toward the horizon
which looks like the ocean—gutless.



The Classics

after “The World’s Biggest Gangbang,” starring Annabel Chong

What if a loss
in that world was
an extravagance in this—
scavenged set pieces from the classics.

What if you authored
the tale of the woman
pinned again and again,
face yanked up by the hair.

What if you cast
yourself as the hero
on all fours or bent
in half by assisting hands.

What if—instead—
he brought you a rose,
and you invited
them to watch.

What if finally
we have the chance
to decide and we
decide this.


Second-Hand Volcanoes

Ultimately classical, this fear of women’s mouths. For the Greeks,
the analogy was the flaming craters of the infernal world. They had
a word for women’s utterances that meant unspeakable. We stopper
our throats with darkness. I imagine women are thousands of mouths
dreaming after a gargantuan celebration of noise. When I speak, I taste
sulfur. I have seen the faces of worldlessness and would like

to come crashing like a boar out of brush, but remain cloistered
like the memory of second-hand volcanoes. Our silences resemble
each other over great distance, mountain-twins hardened
in ancient wind, while below the body: spongy, ropey, frangible, and—
according to my hypothesis—dear. How lucky to have it.
Its hissing instinct the only sound below the outcrop.


mouth pried open, mouth clamped shut

There is a half-moon muscle that caps my jaw joint, making a barnacle of ache. I am trying to rub it away when a man on a scooter stops to tell me I have beautiful legs and he wants to spread them all over the place. Once I read that women in Ancient Greece were forbidden to speak in public. The penalty was stoning. Yearly, they would all leave the city for a three-day festival of yelling profanities, thus cleansing the polis of all that is disgusting. The author added that the women would lift their skirts exposing their other mouths. I sat with my alert jaw puzzling over that phrase, until I realized he meant their vaginas because he thinks vaginas look like mouths turned sideways, or because, like a mouth, they are meant for taking things in. Not that they make utterances. Without a tongue, they would be as nonsensical as water bubbling from Castalia after Apollo turned her into a fountain.  She is your vassal while she is a woman. Do we read while as although or as as long as? I am so deep in thought about the muteness of women who are also fountains I almost don’t hear him say When I’m done with you, you won’t be able to walk for a week. The light turns green and a horn blasts as I open my mouth to stretch the tendon. It makes a clicking over the bone—then back, as if sliding a plate over a hungry aperture.


All poems by Elizabeth Hoover