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Our poetry editor, Joe Pan, has selected a poem by Nathan Hoks for for the latest in a monthly series that brings original poetry to the screens of Hyperallergic readers.

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Pedro Luis Palencia, “Magritte.exe” (2010) (via

Three Affinities

Nightwalk of Affinity

I was walking toward a gigantic lake.
A little man held my hand and even though
The breeze blew sand into my ear,
I could hear the man’s breath. I took
A light out of my pocket and
Stabbed it into the darkness.
The man asked what I was looking for
And I asked him who he thought he was
Or what was he trying to become,
Attached as he was like a holster to my hip.
Perhaps you need a gun, he said, to slide
Into my mouth. We should walk more
Quickly, I said, this lake is known to vaporize.
So what? he said. That gives you a chance
To clarify these feelings for yourself,
To clarify yourself for these feelings, to uncover
The faint beam of light that like a stream
Runs straight through your body
And unties the multiple knots of your self-image.
And instead of talking back I looked down
For a mouth to see if he was emitting a glow.

Polysaccharidean Affinity

My body has become another man’s.
He needs help managing his feelings,
They overwhelm his motor skills,
His limbs flail, he slams doors and puts
His fist through walls. His odorless
Body is supple and unravels like yarn.
His insides feel like the roasting flesh
Of a sweet potato. This orange
Human spirit holds the loveliest
Starch particles and if I drizzle a little
Water from my mouth they congeal.
When I lie down my body unfurls
And the shadow of a conifer breaks
Through a window. The other man,
His breath and odor, hovers near the bed,
A cobra’s hood to corral our spirits.

Affinity as Iceberg

We were in a dim room where there was
No broom, no fan, not even a vase
So the flowers were shivering when a soundless voice
Touched the two of us, rubbing at our edges
Until we could not tell ourselves apart.
We felt, you’d later say, as though we’d given
Birth to a fierce presence that would float
To us like an iceberg, condescending and sinister,
Yet somehow something we’d vowed to protect,
We’d weep when the smallest chunks would calve
Into the glassy water. It was all-consuming,
As though an immense window had opened
Inside me, the one you wanted installed
In the dining room so you could eat a potato
And watch the greenness, its systematic
And intolerable increase over time.

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Nathan Hoks

Nathan Hoks is the author of two books of poetry, Reveilles and The...