Cynthia Hogue

Will flames lap? Leap? | The Country Stairs
September 26, 2016 Hogue Cynthia

Will flames lap? Leap?

“in the corner of her force”

(Jeanne D’arc)


Will flames lap? Leap?

Tickle at least at first?

At last

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!


You smirk

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

was mystified


but obedient. Later, when he understood,

he flushed

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 is an American poet, translator, critic and professor. She specializes in the study of feminist poetics, and has written in the areas of ecopoetics and the poetics of witness.