Bag Man

by Erin Hoffman

The streets were quiet where the bag man walked,

Ionic columns striking white against the

brownstones dappled with starry maple shade,

a view that reeked of adjectives and

the Saturday afternoon pepper chirp

of casual parakeet jubilance from

a third story window;

slab slate sidewalks, textured like deserts

seen from thirty thousand feet, cracked

at the corners, leading to a between-brick

lacquered wooden fence, strangely Chinese;

an oleander, spindly in a pot, given furlough

in the late summer sun, evidence

of the casual unknowing insanity of city-

dwellers: he wondered if they knew

or cared that it was poisonous. And then


one hand lifted up from underneath a slab,

tossed from a bankrupt bakery,

the ending of a poem

it was not, yet; it would need pounding,

lathing, contortion, pretzelization, caulking

with an oakem expensively extracted from

the base of his neck.

But he pried it from the detritus, torqued it

meditatively, stashed

it beneath one arm, a furtive look to see

who had noticed—no one; it was precious,

little poem-not-yet, salvageable, and now he

could return satisfied to his place-of-shade,

of warmth, of sustenance, well justified

of one more day of worthiness;

heaven knows,

good endings are hard to find.

Erin Hoffman is a writer and video game designer who currently calls the San Francisco bay area home. She is a columnist for Escapist Magazine and a nonfiction contributor for an assortment of magazines including Strange Horizons and Gamasutra, and recently completed editing the essay collection Settlers of the New Virtual Worlds. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of magazines including Not One of Us, Electric Velocipede, and Antimuse, and is forthcoming in Mythic Delirium and Asimov's. She writes fantasy and science fiction, with publications in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Lone Star Stories, and elsewhere. For more details and her recent publication credits, visit