Richard Hoffman’s “Refugee” & Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’ “Raw Enlightenment” (Trans. Talia Franks)


by Richard Hoffman

A man carries his door,
the door of his house,
because when the war is over
he is going home

where he will hang it
on its hinges
and lock it, tight,
while he tries to remember
the word for welcome.

If his house is gone
when he returns,
he will raise it from rubble
around this door.

If he cannot return,
the door will remember
the rest of the house
so he can build it
again, elsewhere.

And if he cannot go on,
his door can be a pallet
for his rest, a stretcher
to carry him, his shade
from sun, his shield.

Previously published in Gold Star Road (Barrow Street Press, 2007).

* Writing Prompt: At the end of 2020, there were 82.4 million forcibly displaced people in the world, a larger number than at any time in human history. The fact is inescapable: perhaps you know someone who is among their number, perhaps you are or have been one of them. The man in this poem has invested his door with all his hopes — what object might serve that purpose for you? Describe that object, its relation to your hopes for a home, a future, peace.

Raw Enlightenment*

by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
translated by Talia Franks

Filled with a hostile vitality, she assesses the determination of a lifestyle that lasts until death.

None would set forth if they considered
the risks of the sea; if they knew
the many dangers, they would not
provoke the bravest of bulls.
If of the fiery brute they pondered,
the fury unbridled in the race,
the shrewd equestrian would never
expect to control it with a discreet hand.
But if there were any so bold,
that, despite the danger, Apollo himself
would like to steer with a daring hand
the fast chariot bathed in golden light,
he would embrace everything, not settling
for one circumstance, as all there is to life.

Encarece de animosidad la elección de estado durable hasta la muerte.

Si los riesgos del mar considerara,
ninguno se embarcara; si antes viera
bien su peligro, nadie se atreviera
ni al bravo toro osado provocara.
Si del fogoso bruto ponderara
la furia desbocada en la carrera
el jinete prudente, nunca hubiera
quien con discreta mano lo enfrenara.
Pero si hubiera alguno tan osado
que, no obstante el peligro, al mismo Apolo
quisiese gobernar con atrevida
mano el rápido carro en luz bañado,
todo lo hiciera, y no tomara sólo
estado que ha de ser toda la vida.

*English title by Talia Franks

* Writing Prompt: Think of your favorite myth or legend. Who is the central figure? What would it take to gain their attention? Write a poem where you become a protagonist alongside them.

Richard Hoffman has published four volumes of poetry, Without Paradise; Gold Star Road, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and the Sheila Motton Award from The New England Poetry Club; Emblem; and his latest collection Noon until Night, winner of the 2018 Massachusetts Book Award for poetry. His other books include the memoirs Half the House and Love & Fury, and the story collection Interference and Other Stories. His work, both prose and verse, appears in such journals as Agni, Colorado Review, Consequence, Harvard Review, Hudson Review, The Literary Review, The Manhattan Review, PN Review (UK), Poetry, Witness, World Literature Today and elsewhere. He is nonfiction editor at Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices.

Mx. Talia Franks is a poet, writer, podcaster, and translator born and raised in Massachusetts. Talia has written regularly on Word for Sense and Other Stories and they have contributed articles to both Black Girls Create and Nerdist. They are a contributor to These Bewitching Bonds: A Black Girls Create Anthology, and their poetry has appeared in the Brandeis University publications Jaded and Ebony Axis. Talia is also the host of the podcast Into the Archives and co-host of the Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Podcast. They are an alum of the Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference and the Columbia Publishing Course, and earned a Master of Arts in Comparative Humanities from Brandeis University. When not reading, writing, or translating Talia enjoys hiking, swimming, meditation, spending time with friends and family, indexing their personal library, and trying to find more time in their schedule to read. You can find Talia on Instagram and Twitter as @talia_franks and learn more about them at

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (12 November 1648 – 17 April 1695) was a Mexican writer, philosopher, composer, playwright, and poet of the Baroque period, and Hieronymite nun. After having faded to slight scholarly obscurity, her works were revived in the 20th century by Octavio Paz and Sor Juana is now considered by many to be a combination rebel, genius, persecuted intellectual, proto-feminist, and queer icon. Her works continue to spark vibrant discourse on colonialism, education, gender, sexuality, women’s religious authority, and writing as examples of feminist advocacy.