A web-exclusive poem from Erin Hoover’s new collection | The Sun Magazine
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A web-exclusive poem from Erin Hoover’s new collection

By Erin Hoover • October 20, 2023

Book cover for No Spare People by Erin Hoover.

We are celebrating the release of Erin Hoover’s second book of poetry, No Spare People, out today from Black Lawrence Press, with an exclusive online publication of the book’s concluding poem, “What If Pain No Longer Ordered the Narrative.” Hoover’s poetry collection looks at parenting from the lens of an unpartnered, queer mother in the U.S. South and questions dominate narratives of gender, class, and race.

To hear Hoover read “What If Pain No Longer Ordered the Narrative,” click the play button below.

What If Pain No Longer Ordered The Narrative
An Excerpt from No Spare People

At dinner my daughter pushes triangles of French toast
back and forth on her plate, forming amber currents of
syrup, lifts a piece dripping to her mouth. I watch her
jaw work as the restaurant clatters around us, an
ordinary vortex of sound, and once again I fix not on
the object I love but on losing her to standard-issue
workaday shit. Such toxicity electrifies all of our
meals. One of us will die first, and we are only two, no
spare people. The only constant is that I birthed her,
with a thirty-eight-year-old body. Today she sips her
milk from styrofoam, her skull painted with white-
blond hairs, the blue beat of her pulse visible at her
temple, a three-year-old with adult-size ears. She’ll
replace me with another beloved one day, as children
do, and if I don’t let her, I’ll have failed, a different
failure than those nights she brings me books to read
when I’m too tired, or the years of my tone poisoned
by the inevitable fiascoes at work, my entitlement
pooling in our home like carbon monoxide. I’ve
operated as a vassal in service to a terrible king for so
long. Tonight I wrap her uneaten bacon to take with us
and guide her arms to their jacket sleeves. I buckle her
in. I don’t groan at the train crossing. I allow another
car to lurch into the lane ahead of us, stay calm when
the driver flips me the bird. In the rearview mirror I
watch my daughter’s eyes, and I don’t even curse the
titans of industry who set America on fire. I pull into
the long coast of our driveway, the home I pray she’ll
think of fondly once I’m gone. Except I will never be
gone. I carry her body inside, limp with sleep and
curved against my shoulder, and I put her to bed.

Excerpted from No Spare People. Copyright © 2023 by Erin Hoover.

A photograph of Erin Hoover.

© Keistyn Steward

Erin Hoover’s first poetry collection, Barnburner, won Elixir Press’s Antivenom Poetry Award and a Florida Book Award. Originally from Pennsylvania, she lives in rural Tennessee and teaches creative writing at Tennessee Tech.

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