When I was thirteen, I had a voice from God
To help me to govern myself.
-Joan of Arc
To the polled woods in the smallest
Hour of morning
I ran in my night clothes, uncaring
What the others might think.
I heard a voice on my right hand, toward the church.
There was a great light all about.
Father’s hand, and mine,
In his: a small bird across a mottled field.
In the vespers, my father falls to his knees in a blown-out cut of wind.
I have not swallowed solids in seventeen days.
I am dizzy with God-stuff.
I was born for this.
Father tells me
Should I continue refusing,
I shall not be released.
But I am bewildered with the quickening tumult,
The fevering pitch. Mad horse cut loose of its shackles,
I will not be stopped.
I am fallen in a wooly stupor.
At night, my soul is a starved kestrel
Hovering above the nest:
Killy, killy, killy,
Unbound, I will enter the woods the way the dead enter the sea.
In your letter of last, you named me
Then sentenced me
To seven days silence.
You said, You must sweep
And sweep the floor.
But the world allured me, and
In an unguarded moment,
To her temptress voice.
By the morning of the eighth,
I dreamed you
Into the room: a junco
Hovering above the bed.
With host or alone, in daylight or in snowstorm,
Somehow or no-how, in this
Or in the next life,
I will find you
Gone in a window-
Less train traveling snowstorm.
With you missing,
All the pretty animals are game for the killing.
Cynthia Cruz’s poems have been published in The New Yorker, Paris Review, Boston Review, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review and others. Her first collection of poems, RUIN, was published by Alice James Book and her second collection, The Glimmering Room, was published by Four Way Books in 2012. Her third collection, Wunderkammer, is forthcoming in 2014. She has received fellowships from Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony as well as a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn, New York.