somehow poet Michael Hofmann (b. 1957) knows just the kind of nostalgia I can get into. It’s the kind that smells like someone’s basement, sounds like a bowl of rice krispies, and invites know-it-alls, and he refers to it not once but twice in this hot-off-the-presses poem. I think he’s making a specific cultural reference there in quotation marks at the end, but I don’t quite catch it.
Mr. Hofmann has won a ton of prizes in England, and has also translated more than 70 books from German to English. Enjoy. -ed.
A few yards of vinyl records, well-thumbed,
Under the cistern that sometimes overflows over the front door in London,
The drips giving visitors Legionnaire’s disease. Books in four countries,
The same books. No turntable. None of this is a boast.
Boots, sweaters, jeans, from pre-designer days.
Papers, birth certificates, dead passports, their corners docked,
My degree, my decree.
Unopened letters from my mother.
Three sets of taxes, old boarding passes,
Coins, bundled stationery envelopes that are stuck down or won’t stick.
The whatever world of passwords, streaming, and clouds–
Oh, streams and clouds by.
A trunk holding a suitcase holding a hold-all.
The travel equivalent of a turducken,
Motheaten to buggery.
Children’s clothes, Oshkosh, never worn.
Two paintings by a man called Smith, American in Paris, or Brit in New York,
One by "Puck" Dachinger, a black canted nude in a pink camisole,
With a stove in the corner, scratched with the back of a brush:
Ravings from internment on the Isle of Man.
Blood on one of the doors, peach on one of the walls (don’t ask).
Two plastic bottles of yellowing samogon mescal
From Mexico, sealed with extra twists of plastic.
Imagine travelling with liquids.
Afghan rugs. A reamer, a garlic press.
A funny cup. The "Porky Prime Cut" greetings etched in the lead-off grooves,
When not only did you listen to records,
You held them up to the light and read them.