Two Poems by Richard Hague

Long Ago It Began

during the so-called Cold War

Our backyard fifty-gallon drum

was mostly rust,

red-orange pulses of flame

lancing its sides 

as my father fed it

cereal boxes and newspapers,

fading V-Day victory columns

corrected to smoke in seconds.

Everything was eligible:

an old catcher’s mitt, moldy, 

ripped, its stench a burning dog.

Once, a stake of polished

wood, a piano leg, whose 

lacquered brilliance burst into fumes 

that stung my eyes.

Burning was as common as breathing, 

and what would not burn 

the first time flung in

would wait, soak up rain,

dry out in sun, crumple and shrink,

then join stampeding flames

when lit again.

How much poison we must

have created, how many

future heat waves, floods, dry spells:

paint cans, old galoshes,

early plastic junk,

transistor radios,

Cracker Jack gizmos 

boys quickly broke

and tossed.

High on our switch-backed

ridge where the city  

garbage trucks couldn’t climb,

we joined the steel mills

over the hill, our

daily backyard conflagrations

a rhyme with open hearths


our hot messes,

our tributary blazes

that for generations smote the air

and threw such smoke

that even the stars

went extinct at night.


Message from Frackingport

Come quickly: the past huffs up 

the borehole 

and all the hills turn black.


photo: Scott Goebel

Richard Hague is a northern Appalachian from Steubenville, Ohio who has lived and worked in Cincinnati since 1969. He is winner of the James Still award in the Short Story, The Weatherford Award in Poetry, the Appalachian Writers Association's Poetry Book of the Year, and four Individual Artist Artist Fellowships in two genres from the Ohio Arts Council. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in both poetry and nonfiction, he is past president of The Literary Club of Cincinnati. Recent books include, with Sherry Cook Stanforth, Riparian: Poetry, Short Prose, & Photography Inspired by the Ohio River (Dos Madres Press 2019) and Earnest Occupations: Teaching, Writing, Gardening, & Other Local Work (Bottom Dog Press 2018).