I traveled your pilgrim’s course
ignorantly, coincidentally as
but guided, as if you,
far away in your particular desert,
could be saved by a few words
said right —
(Of a route: direct.
Obs.OE and ME fitting,
leading to uncertainty as to
which meaning is intended . . . ) —
Oh, I lit the candle
that I paid a coin for
and knelt at the small icon
carved of the dark wood of a pear tree,
with embroidered gold filigreed
vestments. Anyway: prayed.
You in your last travail.
To be beyond hope
is to happen into a most spacious
sensibility at the very moment
of greatest need.
To be outside
the confines of desire is to arrest
time, which devours space,
Saturday we spoke of stopping hydration.
You asked us to just shoot me or make me
well. We were your agents of change,
we strangers from afar. Monday
the morphine drip. Or maybe Sunday.
The on-call hospice nurse had the worst
tobacco and whiskey voice and the voice
upset you who roused at last to say, No more
love. But the nurse in the middle of her
story continued so bent on telling the whole
she forgot the point of being there at all.
We heard her though we no longer listened,
having turned to you whose
breathing had begun to quicken.
Cynthia Hogue is a poet and translator whose eighth collection of poems, Revenance, will be out in 2014 from Red Hen Press. Some of the poems from which this sequence is drawn (“In June, the Labyrinth”) are forthcoming in Third Coast. Cynthia teaches in the MFA program at Arizona State University, and this spring, was Distinguished Visiting Writer at Cornell.