“Only Days Before Leaving For College, I Note the Existence of My Brother” by Ivy Hoffman

Ivy Hoffman (age 15)



My brother sits in the corner
With his papers all around,
And he is drawing.

He does not listen
To our conversations.
You will only see his foot tap,
Sometimes, when we play Wings,

And then you will know
He is real.

Sometimes I think
He is drawing me,
Though he tries to throw me off,
He never looks up
From his paper,

But when I smile, I see him,
Though he shields his face
With his knees, smile.

He never speaks to me.
Before I go to bed, I pray
That God will bless my brother
With speech.

When I dance in the living room,
My face looking up at the ceiling fan,
And no further, with my arms
Spread wide, my legs kicking
Sporadically and wonderfully,

My brother draws, and taps his foot,
And I know he’s dancing with me,
In his own way, he is pushing music
From the tip of his charcoal pencil.



And now I am venturing out
Into the beautiful and terrifying world,
No longer will I be safe
Within these strong brick walls,
I will only have myself.

And my brother will remain here,
He does not know the bright colors
Of the universe, he will only know
The musty darkness of his charcoal.

Color is a funny thing, I have a
Memory that is not my own,
And it is devoid of color:

My mother, screaming.
I remember later, long after she
Brought me into this world
With glorious triumph, a warrior,

Someone told me
That blood in black and white
Is chocolate sauce—the same
Consistency, the same darkness.

Bone on bone, limbs reaching,
Life: my father sitting in the
Waiting room, he does not
Know me yet, he does not

Think of me at all,
Only mother, only

Life devoid of color,
It is not my memory.

It is not mine to bear.

I was chosen,
Or he was chosen,
God did something
Right or wrong,
God did something.



I do not know what he draws.
Like a dream, I approach
And my brother retreats
Into his corner.

His eyes are green or blue,
I think, they are not dark
And sad like mine, they are
Bright and blameless,

He is uncomplaining.

God did not gift my brother
With speech, he was not
Blessed with life,
Only something like it:

Continuance, habit,
A steady pattern.

I cannot see his face,
It is always behind his knees,
But I know him.

Like I know myself,
As the only thing I am sure of,
My brother’s drawings are beautiful,
My brother’s voice, I know,
Is beautiful,

My brother, often unobserved,
A shadow in the corner,
Is beautiful.

from 2021 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Ivy Hoffman: “I don’t think there is one answer to why I like to write poetry. In the beginning, I would read poetry to my family and I would wish it was my own. Then, it became a sort of therapy for me. Sometimes I wrote because something was frustrating me and I just needed to work through it. I still find that I discover something new about myself with everything I write, which is the coolest thing, but at this point, I also feel like I am writing simply because it has become such a part of me. It’s just like breathing—if you hold your breath for long enough, eventually your body will kick in and start to breathe again. I feel that if I tried to stop writing, after a few days my fingertips would find a keyboard again and before I knew it I would be writing. If you asked me why I love my parents, or my sister, or my cat, I could give you a bunch of things that I love about them, but at the end of the day, those are just traits. I love them because I love them. The same thing goes for poetry. I love it because, well, I do.”

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