Slippers sticking half-out, half-under the couch. The broken table clock, which Dad found in some old wreck of a house–and daily wound–stuck in a corner. Reverse-painted on glass protecting the clock’s gears and pulleys, a golden stag stands on a rise among trees. His antlers reach them. All summer, we breathed air we could see, smoke-filled, particulate matter of dust, ash. Not the bear in mountains with their late cubs, elk, otter, puma, or a panoply of feathered beings unable to stay aloft escaped the fouled air. The root of this malady goes as far back as flying buttress, the lost art of Madonna blue in stained glass, cautionary gargoyles with dignified scowls overlooking the roil below of open markets, deal-making, discovery of profit motive, and ever-new the vows of doing good—those lies.
Small leaves of the pear cactus like green and prickly paddles.
How have they grown when rains are so rare?
or the ocotillo–those desert conservationists–
flamed down the hill?
I take my watering can to fill a bowl
for the warren of rabbits, the nesting doves.
Working late one night, you said, The house has a spirit.
When the hair on the back of your neck rose, you added,
Which wants me to leave
it alone. Sometimes the invisible
seeks to rest for a time in the solitude
of grace. Light through the blinds
thatches the wall. The parch of throat,
the desiccate soul.
Cynthia Hogue is author of Revenance (2014) and In June the Labyrinth (2017). Her tenth collection, instead, it is dark, will be out from Red Hen Press in 2023. Her translations (both with Sylvain Gallais) include Fortino Sámano (The overflowing of the poem), from the French of Virginie Lalucq and Jean-Luc Nancy, which won the Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets in 2013, and Nicole Brossard’s Lointaines (forthcoming from Omnidawn this spring).