Gratitude Is the Only Secret That Cannot Reveal Itself
    after Emily Dickinson

    Cynthia Hogue
When Time stopped, she wrote on sky-
colored paper, for the Crocus
(glory flooded the garden) . . .
"My father taught me time but
I did not understand & was afraid."
Her life, aslant as March buds
in late frost, grief for ballast.

Water boiled, windows
scrubbed of winter-smudge.
A town, gray as Eternity.
Then "step like a pattering child's and in
glided a little plain woman
with no good feature, who said,
Forgive me; I never see strangers."

She smiled (though she never smiled),
breathless. Air nodded, entranced.
"If I ask too much, please refuse.
I find ecstasy in living
and shortness to live
makes me bold." Breeze arose
to recall Loss striding forty days

through the valley, hands clasped behind,
wing-shadows hovering overhead.
She thought to plead
for affection, but "what is Affection
but the Germ of little Notes?
(this very dreamily, as if they were comets
she writes)." Wind pulled

its lace shawl close, tittered.
"Is it oblivion or absorption
when things pass from our minds?
I have'nt expressed myself
strongly enough." Silence paused
as just beyond the pane,
a robin quipped in green.
[quoted passages are from Letters 342 and 342b, 16 August, 1870, Col. Higginson to his wife, on meeting Emily Dickinson for the first time; Letter 352, 26 September, 1870, Dickinson to Col. Higginson]

Cynthia Hogue has published three collections of poetry, most recently The Never Wife (Mammoth P, 1999), and has co-edited an anthology of essays on women’s avant-garde writing, We Who Love To Be Astonished: Experimental Women’s Writing and Performance Poetics (U of AL P, forthcoming 2001). Her new poetry collection is entitled Flux (New Issues P, forthcoming 2002). She currently lives in Pennsylvania, where she directs the Stadler Center for Poetry and teaches English at Bucknell University.

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