“in the corner of her force”
Will flames lap? Leap?
Tickle at least at first?
to curl around until I’m gone?
You grill me on every
inconsistency of detail,
but visions are my guidance
I don’t know from where –
The voices tell me who they are
and what they say is true.
I’d never ask such trivial things
as whether I see their mouths move
or if they face me when they speak.
You claim my answers indicate
an immorality that proves you moral,
but you reason in a circle,
and your logical conclusion –
to therefore rake me into coal
because I deserve this fate – is false.
You hold the power to do this –
therefore you do this!
that I can’t prove my life is guided
by the voices in my ear except
I have reported truly to the court,
and they are present now. One’s there,
who leans upon your shoulder, and now my voice
is his: Your claim that you alone know
God’s will cannot be proven either.
You’re a danger no doubt to my body,
but your soul is what you risk
(the voices tell me this).
n.b. title from Little Saint, by Hannah Green
The Country Stairs
on the outside of his grandparents’ last farmhouse –
unevenly grooved stone –
led to a room
above the great hearth where summers
the boy slept with Grandmother’s mother
who garbled things:
a room with a small bed and hooks on bare walls –
from one hung
a crucifix –
nothing else for the room to do
but harbor the sleepers’ dreams.
The boy curled
into limestone. After supper the woman
would take her cane
and go to the flowering
linden tree by the road to wait
for the beau who’d died many years ago
just shy of their 50th.
Once the boy spent too long on his meal
and his grandparents
who surely told him
turned out the lights and went to bed.
Perhaps the boy didn’t remember how late
the June light lasts –
but, also stubborn, he wouldn’t waste food.
That week the neighbors
had given him chocolate,
inviting him into town but not into the bakery.
Wait for us across the street, they said. The boy
but obedient. Later, when he understood,
with the shame
of their pity, the chocolate he’d gobbled
so eagerly smearing his face. By then
teaching French in
Morocco, Uncle on rare visits back
would right off
pump water to boil
on the fire and wash him clean. Mopping
soup with his bread, he thought of the dark,
and of stepping
around the pile of manure in the barnyard
to reach the stairs,
how in the morning
the rooster would crow to the sun
from the top of the pile – cocoricco – as if he were
bastion of the world.
Cynthia Hogue has nine collections of poetry, most recently Revenance, listed as one of the 2014 “Standout” books by the Academy of American Poets, and the forthcoming In June the Labyrinth (Red Hen Press, 2017). With Sylvain Gallais, Hogue co-translated Fortino Sámano (The overflowing of the poem), from the French of poet Virginie Lalucq and philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy (Omnidawn 2012), which won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets in 2013. She was a 2015 NEA Fellow in Translation, and holds the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University.