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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

One Lark, One Horse


Michael Hofmann

Farrar, Straus and Giroux


The Years

Nothing required an account of me

And still I didn’t give one.

I might have been a virtual casualty,

A late victim of the Millennium Bug.

No spontaneity, no insubordination,

Not even any spare capacity.


The luncheon voucher years

(the bus pass and digitized medical record

always in the inside pocket come later,

along with the constant orientation to the nearest hospital).

The years of “sir” (long past “mate,” much less “dearie”),

of invisibility, of woozy pacifism,

of the preemptive smile of the hard-of-hearing,

of stiff joints and the small pains

that will do me in. The ninth complement

of fresh—stale—cells, the Late Middle Years

(say, 1400 AD—on the geological calendar),

the years of the incalculable spreading middle,

the years of speculatively counting down

from an unknown terminus,

because the whole long stack—

shale, vertebrae, pancakes, platelets, plates—

won’t balance anymore, and doesn’t correspond anyway

to the thing behind the eyes that says “I”

and feels uncertain, green and treble

and wants its kilt as it climbs up to the lectern to blush

and read “thou didst not abhor the virgin’s womb.”

The years of taking the stairs two at a time

(though not on weekends)

a bizarre debt to Dino Buzzati’s Tartar Steppe,

the years of a deliberate lightness of tread,

perceived as a nod to Franz Josef

thinking with his knees and rubber-tired Viennese Fiaker.

The years when the dead are starting to stack up.

The years of incuriosity and novarum rerum

incupidissimus, the years of cheap acquisition

and irresponsible postponement, or cheap

postponement and irresponsible acquisition,

of listlessness, of miniaturism, of irascibility,

of being soft on myself, of being hard on myself,

and neither knowing nor especially caring which.

The years of re-reading (at arm’s length).

The fiercely objected-to professional years,

the appalling indulgent years, the years of no challenge

and comfort zone and safely within my borders.

The years of no impressions and little memory.

The years of “I would prefer not”

and “leave me in the cabbage.”

The years of standing in elevators

under the elevator lights in the elevator mirror,

feeling and looking like leathered frizz,

an old cheese-topped dish under an infrared hot plate,

before they kindly took out the lights

and took out the mirror, and slipped in screens

for news, weather, and sponsors’ handy messages.

The years of one over the thirst

Copyright © 2018 by Michael Hofmann