This work was featured in Issue 17:4, Fall 2016 — Slam Issue

Joanna Hoffman

Two Poems

If you’re regulating my body, I’m regulating your guns

Because control is dialect of violence,
and control and violence are the currencies
power uses to speak from each pair
of parted lips.

Because there is no one thing my body
was made for, but last I checked,
your guns aren’t paperweights
or centerpieces.

Because protection is more about fear
than safety; because fear is hate’s
loudest voice.

Because we already are each other’s
worst fears: me, a childless lesbian,
and you, an angry white man with
a gun.

Because the body count rises and
rises of innocent people shot in
schools, at abortion clinics, in
wars we don’t belong in, at
peaceful protests, in the street
by police, in the street by vigilantes,
in the street by transphobic assholes,
in the home, in someone’s home.

Because you can’t be trusted not
to play God with lives you’ve decided
are worth less than your own.

Because mercy is a commodity, too,
but you can’t afford it; because grief
is not and so you can’t value it.

Because loss is a song we both know
the words to– you hollow out the names,
and we keep
filling them in.

 

Sanctuary

Let this be the year my anxiety wrestles
itself to exhaustion and my depression
forgets its name and instead answers
to the honest sadness it comes from.
Let this be the year I remember how
to be my own sanctuary. I once spent
a year watching chemo turn my mother’s
blond hair ghost then gray; a year spent
when I was the sole architect of my own
pleasure; running 13 miles through Brooklyn
til I met the ocean and my wailing body was
my own. When I refuse to translate my grief
into loneliness, I remember that
I already know my own language,
that it would be impossible for me to
mispronounce my own life. I have no
children. It’s okay. I miss everyone, all
the time. It’s okay. One day I will
lose even more people I love. It’s
okay. In my language, that also means
it’s not. It means I owe it to myself
to not strangle my fear into a deadlier
poison but to swallow it straight. I’m
not sorry for being human. I’m sorry
for expecting to win this battle as if
depression were a war and not a
chronic illness. To be cured is to
never be free of danger, but to teach
my cells to sanctuary themselves. Let
this be the year I sanctuary myself.

 

Joanna Hoffman is a poet and teaching artist based in Brooklyn, NY and originally from Silver Spring, MD. She is a 15 year veteran of slam poetry, and was a member of the DC/Baltimore slam teams in 2002, 2006 and 2007, when she was also the Grand Slam champion. In total, she has competed on five National Poetry Slam teams, ranked 4th at the 2012 Women of the World Poetry Slam and was the 2012 champion of Capturing Fire, an international LGBTQ poetry competition. Her full-length book of poetry, Running for Trap Doors (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014) was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and featured in the American Library Association's list of recommended LGBT reading for 2014. She was recently named a White House Champion of Change for LGBT advocacy through art. Her work has appeared on Upworthy and Buzzfeed, and in literary journals and publications including Winter Tangerine, decomP, PANK, Union Station Magazine, The Legendary, Sinister Wisdom, and the Write Bloody Publishing anthologies We Will be Shelter and Multiverse.