Elizabeth Hoover

Winner of the 2017 Poetry Contest for Emerging Poets

Facts and Little White Lies

I have never read Lolita because I am afraid
of the little girl. At the gym, I read magazines
while making little steps on the machine,
or look out the window at birds following
one another. A branch breaks if too many birds
sit on it. How many is too many? Just a little
skirmish in a little war, but I still get sad sometimes.
When I am sad I curl up with my little cat
and let the sadness make me sleepy. When a man
talks about Lolita, I get nervous. Does the little girl
look like me? Nervous that if I read it
it would make sense or it wouldn’t. After all
I was not a little girl and he was not
a handsome expatriate. I don’t know
if that is the plot or something I made up
from the movie poster. A man once told me
Nabokov studied wild butterflies and I wondered
what other kinds are there? The truth is I was a little girl but he was not an expatriate. The truth is it was a long time ago
and now I am in love with someone who says Lolita
is a complicated book but doesn’t say you have
to read it
. On our first date we ate cupcakes and I
took little bites so I wouldn’t have to lick
icing off my lips. The tongue is a strong muscle
we need for eating and talking. The littlest muscle
is the stapedius, which is in the ear. I like
facts because they keep me here and not
in that little trailer out in the weird suburb.
One day I will read Lolita on a beach vacation.
After all, it’s just a novel and I am not a little girl.

How to Draw a Room

It has been a little over an hour shivering,
shoes off, in the exam room, when I realize
I’ve forgotten a pen. I will have to borrow
one so I don’t forget the doctor’s answers,
though I wish I had one now just to pass the time

sketching, trying to recall the rules of perspective.
Something about convergent parallels, a singular
vanishing point, the way the coin vaults stack
along a diagonal in Fra Angelico’s Annunciation above Mary, whom the painter un-throned, placed

on a milking stool. Tricky to sketch the room
I am in. It’s shallow and acutely angled. Fra Angelico
knew the anterior plane of the back leg of Mary’s stool
should be shaded, this simple discovery a leap forward
for western aesthetics. It had to be drawn,

I realize, the scene I watched last night on my laptop
while chopping vegetables: Leather-clad bikers smash
into a warehouse where naked women slump
against the bars of their cages as a man rapes
another woman, cutting her with a razor.

The bikers shoot the man so he crushes her, driving
the knife into her neck. They pry the cages open
and the women run off screen. But first the scene had
to be imagined, drawn—not into wet plaster, but
into CAD by a drafter or some lucky kid with an internship.

The computer rendered the cages and the mattress
in 3D to be emailed to a fabricator or prop master
and whoever figured out lighting, casting,
whatever else went into this scene reminding us
the bikers are heroes, despite what they did

in the previous season. CAD realizing that vision
using what Angelico discovered kneeling to mark
the grid of tile under where Mary sits. The key
to understanding the genius of Angelico’s fresco
is knowing it is at the top of a flight of stairs,

first encountered from below. When viewed head on
the proportions are off: Mary can’t stand up
without banging her halo on the ceiling, the angel
scrunches into the portico. There was always
something about the annunciation that didn’t

feel like a choice to me, though Angelico
bathes the scene in a soft gold light, paints
Mary’s face sweetly impassive, and gives the angel
comically colorful wings. The curtain drew back

just long enough for the trucker to spot a gaunt face.
Discomforted, he called the police. The article
describes his shock when the trailer opened. How
to draw the interior where they kept her,
travel funded by her body. The darkness

would skew the perspective, make the corners
disappear. Angelico’s painting was viewed in low-light,
a high window making flecks of mica sparkle
in the angel’s wings, the only flourish in the painting
otherwise clear of symbolic clutter, the miracle

brought home with a row of Tuscan cypresses.
The angel could be next door, the trailer any trailer.
The magazine story calls it miraculous but what to call
the men who entered the trailer, bowing their heads
to accommodate the low ceiling. I am in this exam room

because I have a condition caused by injury, pain triggered
fight or flight and I was unable to do either. Now my nerves
endlessly loop those messages. I can’t follow the story
of the bikers, the tale of the trucker and think only of pain
lingering in women’s bodies, wonder if it could be like mine,

which arises with no apparent cause, my inconsolable body
wailing warning in the absence of danger. Angelico references
a Giotto, but if you trace Giotto’s lines they look
like spilled pick-up sticks. you can’t find the vanishing point
in Angelico’s painting either—he knew that—the space

too shallow for convergence. I count paces from one wall
to the other. The medical student described my pain as
a ghost who doesn’t know it’s a ghost. If I were to draw this room
there would be no woman in it. Though I’m not sure there are women
in any of these rooms, however ingenious they are in their design.