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Winter 1997, Volume 14.1

Poetry

 

Cynthia Hogue


Cynthia Hogue (Ph.D., U of Arizona) is Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Stadler Poetry Center at Bucknell University. She has published two collections of poetry,
The Woman in Red (1990) and Where the Parallels Cross (1984), and a critical study on American women's poetry, Scheming Women: Poetry, Privilege, and the Politics of Subjectivity (SUNY P 1995). For her work she has received NEA, NEH, and Fulbright-Hayes Fellowships.

 

My Love Affair

After months of study and debris
leaders refused to acknowledge
an economy of underemployment
and overwork. Deals dried up,
pollution backlogged: short-sighted
nonsense a poetics of futility.
Tension rose in the blue silence
of blindness, legitimizing the use
of prejudice to explain further falsehoods.
It was the best of times.

We found the gash right away
and the Colonel wept: his wife called
to demand he tell the truth
or she'd jump with their child.
Once I, too, sailed in winter
believing I'd meet my love
resplendent in furs and a tiny veiled hat.
This exploitative gender relation
consumes itself, calculates the cost,
participates in that reifying media world.

She said she'd jump with their child
but he did not truth-tell and she
could not jump. Sweet triumph
rendered the woman irrelevant, the request
impractical, complex perks of necessity
exterminating nature: white-tailed deer
who breed ticks and taxpayers
who protest. I, so good at persuading,
then convinced her the track was long
since overgrown with red oak and sweet gum,
the saplings edged with broomstick pine.

 

Understanding Women

If I tell you I'm overgrown,

                                            a weed in monsoons,
would you feel it an imposition?
You've conceived that being on the way if not
                                            on the road itself
is one of life's necessary though excruciating pleasures.
I've wanted to write but you're an address
I no longer know. It's not that I've minded.
I just haven't known. Forgive me.
I've rested on this pain or that like laurels,
weeded my garden (I might say the self)
                                             without aspirations,
but if you still seem immaterial it is that change,
any change, feels like giving a hand
                                                         to someone in quicksand,
and being pulled instead of pulling andówhoopsó
you're suddenly in too.
So lies flow from my lips
here where I'm not sure I'm the weed
                                                          or the garden,
as if we haven't known gardens, especially
those we inherit, are dangerous havens.
For instance, over the weekend we discussed:

The women talking to each other talked about
men but carefully
qualified all they said.
Pruned like dangerous gardens
but whose? Their pasts dissolved;
they couldn't tell how. Their minds gave over
not in. They insisted compassion
come first, something not exclusive to women.
Only women together, sufficiently
upset. They'd divorced
their bodies. They touched themselves.

I'm not crying I'm curious.
If it's knowledge I want I should say so.
Odd to have gotten so far and not know. 
I haven't made up my mind, but excluded from yours
could I clone it? Hey,
                     I don't want just any old cell,
I want your tenderest, your filet mignon brain
                                                                         cell, to start.
Five-times divorced an aging actress at the Oscars up
and declared she'd no need for men ("you can't live with 'em
and you can't kill 'em"). A joke she didn't run on
like in real life, she stood on stage
quoting a sitcom quoting a movie
that revised a bumper sticker, fromó
          like the replay of the Challenger when unwilling
          we saw the relatives shade their eyes and gaze up
          again and again to spot nothing that was there anymore,
          reporters repeating the simulcast soundbites
          as if to say this hasn't happened yet, this is happening
          now, this is as real as it getsó
behind which slowly
                                  and throughout our days
                                                                  we watch the real recede.

 

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