Henry Hoke, The Book of Endless Sleepovers, Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016

Reviewed by Joe Sacksteder

[Review Guidelines]

I told you that Henry Hoke's new story collection is a story collection
because fourteen entries ranging from two pages to twenty-three
veer wildly in style, tone, subject matter

I told you that my favorite story is "Fall Backs"
the haunted tension of haziness, temporal shifts, syntactic parallelism
exposing countless phantom yous
even more terrifying when they align
the path not taken the path you're taking, as in
"I brush my teeth at nine and I haven't seen you in six months
I brush my teeth at eight and I haven't seen you in six months"

I told you that Endless Sleepovers could only have been written by a child
yet to have this planet's newness and trauma taught from him

I told you that Endless Sleepovers could only have been written by a very old man
who'd spent his life ransacking guidance from a thousand page book that explained everything
leaving behind only the perfect sentences
and a thousand riddles

I told you that Henry Hoke's new novel is a novel
because there's no table of contents
and because characters and themes recur
just as dreams speak only the one conjunction, just as:
divorce, disabled mothers, dead pets, Tom and Huck, children acting roles, children acting roles              
     on camera, love you can't find a container for 

I told you that my favorite part of the novel is
Girls Who Look Like Guys You Know Escorts
queering straightened queerness
cataloguing new taboos we thought we'd grown used to
assuring us we're just a mess of okay silences

I told you you have to read Endless Sleepovers
if you like that chill you get hearing an embarrassing song you loved twenty years ago
for the first time since becoming smart

I told you you must avoid Endless Sleepovers and any friends who might have chanced across it
because then you'll have to start all over
I told you that Henry Hoke's new poem is a poem
because stuff isn't always crystal clear
and because he pressed enter in the middle of sentences
even succumbing twice to couplets

I told you that my favorite lines are
"There's not a lot you can do with a bunny
except hold it and terrify it with love"
because you know from your years at the sanctuary
a bunny and your lap are puzzle pieces that don't fit

I told you thank god for something that doesn't make Ovid look so edgy          
someone who gets how chaotic creatures require amorphous forms
a guide less narrator than traitor

Before Greek gods proclaimed let there be rape
no thing maintained its shape. Hoke / Ovid reverse this unraveling
return us to our undigested heap

Like the eponymous Exploding Henry Hoke dolls,
each Sleepover is fixed with a lit fuse ready to detonate
what genres trick us into seeing stable—

You leap through the porthole sky and flop on the view
until the hand that gives returns you to our atmosphere

Oh jeez, I ask you if that's what it's like reading Henry Hoke
gasping, understanding
or maybe it's more like the being returned to what you can swim in—

You tell me you were just trying to get away
from words that aren't Henry Hoke's