Listen to Poems from Our February Issue | The Sun Magazine
Featured Selections

Listen to Poems from Our February Issue

By Nancy Holochwost, Associate Editor • February 16, 2024

The poems by Grady Chambers, Benjamin S. Grossberg, and Erin Hoover in our February issue each touch on a “what if”: an uncertain or changeable moment when a different future is possible. It could be as small as a woman losing sight of her partner or a young man saying hello to a stranger, or as enormous as a mother overcoming the stresses of parenting and working life. Click the play button below each title to listen to the authors read their poems.

Take care and listen well,
Nancy Holochwost, Associate Editor


Spring Garden Street
By Grady Chambers

I had left her sitting on the front stoop
and crossed the street

to light my cigarette—April
in the early evening,

the pear trees with their arms full
of white blossoms, comfortless as ghosts.

She’d put her head down as she spoke on the phone
for only a moment, but in that moment

I had stepped to my right, leaving her line
of vision, becoming slowly aware—

and it surprised me—that I was growing frightened
thinking how

if she looked to find me
where I’d stood just a second before,

she would find nothing
but her own reflection

shown back to her
in the window of a car:

alone on the front steps,
the month before we separated,

though we didn’t know that then.
Her dark hair blowing in the cold.


I Was Carrying a Velvet Wingback through the Streets of Houston
By Benjamin S. Grossberg

Who isn’t, at twenty-three, sexy? In never-been-kissed
cutoffs with buzzed hair. Did I even have a beard yet?

I looked like the virgin I was—was, at least, in all
the interesting ways. “Chicken,” they would’ve said

back then. And even sexier and more virginal since
I was covered in sweat and doing something ridiculous.

What did he see, the van driver who pulled up
beside me as I caught my breath in front of a green

wingback, in a midriff T with my belly button exposed
and a smattering of gold hair beneath it—chicken

for a chicken hawk? The passenger-side door
swung open, and the driver leaned across the seat,

down toward me. Black mustache to the sides
of his mouth, tight white T-shirt, hair so black

it could’ve been dyed, black stubble down his throat
into his shirt. He looked Village People gay.

That’s what I thought. Too gay to be sexy but
was anyway. And there’s no good way to say this,

but I was instantly afraid he had AIDS. Because
he looked so much gayer than anyone I had seen

growing up in New Jersey. Black leather
baseball cap. Black leather jacket. Studded belt.

Dark-blue dungarees under leather chaps.
A metal-studded armband around one biceps.

It seems important now to remember which arm,
what that signifies. He leaned closer as he spoke,

his voice drawn out, curving like the polished rack
of a longhorn, and said simply, You need a hand

with that? By the time he’d finished the sentence,
I was in the passenger seat, my green-velvet chair

being stowed in back. Do I remember anything about
the ride—or even about the years that followed, during

which I lived in the city—as vividly as how, for the few
miles I sat beside him, he asked powdered-sugar

questions, his voice Dallas but also Atlanta, longhorn
but also Daisy Mae: Where are you from? And

Do you like the city? And finally Are you gay, Ben?
He didn’t try to get out when we pulled up

to my apartment, didn’t say a word as I lifted
my chair from the back, and when I returned

up front to thank him, he raised a hand and said,
Just say hello when you see me out at the bars

but I never saw him. Or maybe I did and didn’t
recognize him. So many men looked and dressed

exactly like he did, white T-shirt, jeans, some article
of leather, blue-black mustache, blue-black hair,

a whole society of them, and all with Dallas
Daisy Mae voices and hairy chests. And all

seeming—I know, I know, this is a terrible
thing to say—seeming to be antigens

of the disease I was terrified of getting. I lived
in that city ten years and never said hello to any of them,

not one, not once, when I saw them out at the bars.


What If Pain No Longer Ordered the Narrative
By Erin Hoover

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.

Free Trial Issue Are you ready for a closer look at The Sun?

Request a free trial, and we’ll mail you a print copy of this month’s issue. Plus you’ll get full online access — including 50 years of archives.
Request A Free Issue