Three Poems by Cynthia Hogue

Cynthia Hogue

Cynthia Hogue

Cynthia Hogue has published seven collections of poetry, most recently, Or Consequence and When the Water Came: Evacuees of Hurricane Katrina, interview-poems and photographs (with Rebecca Ross), both in 2010. She co-translated Fortino Sámano (the overflowing of the poem), by Virginie Lalucq and Jean-Luc Nancy (Omnidawn 2012). Among her honors are an NEA in poetry, the H.D. Fellowship at the Beinecke Library at Yale University, and the Witter Bynner Translation Residency Fellowship at the Santa Fe Art Institute. Hogue is the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry in the English Department at ASU.© University of Arizona Poetry Center

Elegy with Window

Arms crossed as in–
                        dearth of
                                    beating heart—the heart
                                                now cradled (clay):

turn to me you turned like a sunflower toward
light from the window Mother sat by
                        then you could not oh
                                    you cannot move
                                                or anymore see
someone you loved
seeing YOU passing into that space of
                                    shifting the negative
                                                ions your absence
generates in not being
                        Aware of
                                    that desire for
                                                this deliberate attention:

Your daughter leaning to touch 
then touching in awkward last embrace
                        Placing hands
                                    on either side
                                                of your face



The Cayadutta Creek Suite

I spell – Cayudeta –
                      “Cayadutta” is English
            spelling for the Mohawk
“stone standing out of water,”
a boulder in the creek
at the foot of the Adirondacks
moved to build the Erie Canal,

long after the Mohawks themselves
moved (forced).  The creek was power
source for the leather mills and
                        plants growing “like
            weeds along its rocky bed”:
tannins used to cure the many hides 
to make the gloves of Gloversville
stank.  The creek was a gutter.

My high school’s nature club
cleaned a stretch of the Cayadutta
                        as a class project: tires, a sink,
            orange scum all over.  Many condoms.
“Those who lived on
the creek commented on
the water’s color based on
what dyes were dumped in.”


Smell indelible in memory’s ol-
factories.  Like weeds along creek bed.


The earth as a site.
Earth in our sights.


Release “various gaseous”:
the process by which a
                        plant whose cell walls
            exchange CO2 “by auto-
trophic consumption to produce
O2  is life-
sustaining”: generous

in generation is the earth
of emanative commerce-–
                        water (as vapor), hydro-
            chloride, radium, also
including helium—
these parts of
the planet’s exhalation, photo-

synthesis its inhalation.
We do not produce
                        oxygen but
            release carbon.  To
release is not to exchange
but slowly to choke.
I am choking.


Living things recognize life, over-
look dying matter, which is dispirited.


1920s: Cayadutta sprang clear from Bleecker
Mountain; deadened along its course.


1970s: the toll to the creek
the mills took stopped. 
                        Stopped the stench.
            The Cayadutta became
“more associated with young
fisherman catching trout” (stocked).
The mills closed and overnight
the county had the state’s lowest

per capita income.  No work. No 
shops or markets.  Downtown died.
                        That we shopped in dying
            stores.  That labor was
not local (moved to Philippines).
That I knew the unemployed as
well as owners moving shop to India.
That I thought nothing of that. 

My thoughts were stones
standing out of their depth. 
                        That I might now
            see through the waters of
the Cayadutta, smell the burdock,
mullein and sweet grass along
its banks means that there are else-
wheres, other plants, and no one atones. 


Caustic plant, pitcher plant, rubber plant,
sensitive plant, spider plant, woody plant, etc.


On Principle           

I asked a Kantian, “Does this mean that, if I don’t give myself
Kant’s Imperative as a law, I am not subject to it?”  “No,” I was
told, “you have to give yourself a law, and there is only one law.”

                           Derek Parfit


Is an act unprincipled
            because it’s not subject
                        to one law?  A principle’s
optimistic (the outlawed plan
            might not be under-
                        taken).  Also realistic:
it’s will whether to
            do or resist doing
                        something desired,
like a forbidden love,
            or deliberated,
                        as the law allows,
like a necessary killing.
            The act could be refused,
                        an error of ways, erratic
and wayward, the self
            lost in the moment of action,
                        yet at the same time,
fulfilled.  In mind,
            on the mind, neither
                        certainty nor satiety.
Who really wants to weather
            the way a gobbled meal
                        holds the body,
hiccups insisting on
            presence before the sleep—
                        inducing tryptophan
of food takes effect,
            or believe killing could make us
                        just, something other
than killers, or bestow a peace
            that may cometh at last
                        because we haven’t done
everything, right or wrong,
            we dreamed of, that
                        arresting ourselves
being in principle a choice,
            though we’ll never even
now (say it!) say it?