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SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

You Learn a Friend’s Friend Has Died

by Matt Hohner

—for Marty
And you feel in that gauze of shared grief a wind rise
and move around you, across your back and shoulders,
pushing the image of a man into the bluing distance,
shrinking smaller with each blink, so you reach for
that fading silhouette tumbling toward a furthering
vanishing point, and in the grasping you manage
to clutch some torn edge of your life with him, some
lesson or laughter, some sharp hurt you’d forgotten
until just then, and you begin to mourn not those snippets
and scenes, but even more so, the ones you’ve long
since forgotten—murky, gray seas between green islands
rising in the muffling fog—and you want that earth
he was for you, that solid ground, that sunlight through
the silver maples congregated alongside the old chapel
on his father’s church grounds dappling your bare feet
at noon, where you’ve sat yourself once again in the shade,
eleven years old, waiting for him to return from Sunday
service wearing his brother’s maroon hand-me-down tie
from the widest year in the 1970s, plaid polyester pants
flood-high above his ankles, the aroma of his mother’s
brunch of bacon and eggs and bread and jam and butter
emanating like love, or stability, from an open window
in the old stone house up the hill, and you lean back
against the thickest trunk in the grove, and at forty-six,
you know he won’t be coming home, so you linger here
in this meditation, locusts rasping in the canopy above,
before standing, brushing the damp soil from your
cut-offs, and taking the quiet sidewalk back to the lens
of your life now, a hard-earned semi-clarity at middle age,
September crickets punctuating the moonlight filtering
through the woods in the ravine across the street,
a neighbor’s dog barking weakly into the darkness.


—Honorable Mention, the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2017; first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2017-18 (Garden Oak Press, February 2018) and appears here with permissions from the publisher and the poet


SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Matt Hohner,

a Baltimore native and former high school English teacher, holds an MFA degree in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and serves as an editor at Loch Raven Review. His book-length poetry collection, Thresholds, is forthcoming from Apprentice House Press in Fall 2018.

His work has appeared in numerous publications including Califragile; Crab Orchard Review; Dancing Shadow Review; Free State Review; Lily (online); Maryland Poetry Review; Poets Against the War (online); Rattle: Poets Respond; September Eleven: Maryland Voices; The Baltimore Review; The Five-Two: Crime Poetry Weekly; The Irish Times; The Mom Egg Review; The Moth; The Pearl; The Potomac (online); and Truck (online).

Hohner has been a resident at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, made possible by a fellowship from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation. His poems have won the 2016 Oberon Prize for Poetry and the 2015 Lascaux Prize; were awarded both first and third prizes in the Maryland Writers Association Poetry Prize; were selected as finalists for the Sow’s Ear Poetry Review Poetry Prize, the Cobalt Earl Weaver Prize for Baseball Writing, and the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize in Ireland; and have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

His voice can be heard on two spoken-word CDs: Word Up Baltimore! (Maryland Poetry Review Project, 1997) and The Road Less Taken: The Saint Valentine’s Sunday Poetry Marathon 2001 (Spectrum of Poetic Fire Reading Series). Hohner has also appeared on Poetry Jam, a Baltimore-area cable TV program; and he hosted for four years the monthly poetry reading series “Second Saturdays” at the Red Canoe Bookstore & Café in Baltimore.

Links to poems, articles, and reviews at the author’s website:

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury