Hope is a small barn Poems by Gregory LeStage

picture of Gregory LeStage
Author photo by Ralph Maldonado.  

The poems in Gregory LeStage’s new book, Hope Is A Small Barn, refuse to accept easy answers to the all-important issues with which they deal. Nevertheless, they explore the human condition's most shared mysteries with an essential optimism that finds and reveals beauty in people and place. Hope is a lantern lit with words.

About the book, Fred Marchant has written this: “Vaclav Havel wrote that hope was not just optimism that things will work out well, but rather a faith that what we do makes sense, regardless of the outcome.  For Gregory LeStage, hope includes a child’s freshness of perception as he goes forth to discover the world. Hope for this poet also includes a deep commitment to assay both joy and sorrow, especially as these are met in family life unfolding over time. Underneath these is the hope that the shaping of words to express intense feeling is in itself worth our while and meaning-full. If, as LeStage tells us, hope is a small barn with a ‘roof half open to the sky,’ here are poems that are crafted like sturdy beams, weight-bearing, reliable, and true.

Richard Hoffman praises the way in which Gregory LeStage “returns our poetry to sonic elegance. The music inheres in LeStage’s poems, from syllable to syntax, and builds, like Rilke’s Orpheus, ‘a temple in the ear.’ Each of these poems is an embodiment, a shapely figure for the poet’s concerns, which are those of maturity: love and its responsibilities, mortality and its abiding questions. There is great nourishment to be found in these beautifully crafted poems.”

 And this from Michael Ansara: “ ‘Words matter,’ poet Gregory LeStage says in the preface to his newest book, Hope Is a Small Barn, and then proceeds to prove the point.  Each word in this intelligent collection of poems is precisely placed, each carefully crafted for sound, associations, beats, even, once, to form a visual image on the page. The collection starts with the experiences of the poet as a boy of ten and then oscillates over and through his life, always returning ‘to someone we all once were / some child or safe self long gone.’  This fine new book takes us deep into the mind of an accomplished poet as he struggles to ‘make my peace with all / that I could never understand / by reckoning through the archive of the inexplicable.’  Poetry at its best is, indeed, our struggle with the inexplicable. We are all the wiser for this poet’s struggle and for the beautiful, thoughtful poems that have flowed from it.”
  Hope is a small barn cover image
  Cover painting by the author.

Gregory LeStage lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts with his wife of twenty-five years and three daughters. He is a former academic who left university life long ago for the challenges of the business world and is currently a senior executive at a large global management consulting firm. His passions include an old farmhouse on Cape Cod, his workshop and tools, and antique vehicles. He earned his PhD and Master's from Oxford University and his BA from Trinity College in Hartford, CT. His poems have appeared in a number of publications; and his articles, interviews and reviews have been published by Poetry Review, the Times Literary Supplement, Times Higher Education Supplement, New Writing, Notes & Queries, and Oxford Today. His first poetry collection, Small Gods of Summer, was published by Antrim House in 2013 and was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Prize.

Breaking news: Hope Is A Small Barn was recently awarded second place by the Boston Author's Club for The Best Collection of Poems Written in 2018.

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ISBN 978-1-943826-29-2

First Edition 2017

6" x 9" paperback, 86 pages

This book can be ordered from all bookstores, including Amazon.



Copyright © 2017 by Gregory Lestage




I was so ten then –
bicycled, ram handle-barred, ten-speeded,
summering my way towards a not-far town.
My very setting out
startled all the world’s spheres into motion,
so great was my journey.
I wheeled my hill-conquering route
under a twisting ribbon of starlings
blue angeling,
under seagulls bannering my name,
under wished-for weather
that mothered the salt pond and river.

Passing cars heroed
me with wide berth and handwaves, the roadside
bursting with bittersweet as I ivied
along and spooked egrets
 ichabodding in eel grass. In earshot
were the hull-clapping bay,
the catboats mewling at moorings.
I rolled in the shower of my days, rays
or rain, coasted
into the general store for barrel-big
pickles and listening in
on the lilting lie traders just up

from the boatyard with
fresh tales of fish, fuel and wind.
Only ice cream parlored between me and the white church
federating whitely
at the crossroads, its headstones lichened and
lined up in parables,
the gauntlet of graves a pedal-
pumping shortcut past the oak, greatcoat gray,
lashed with lightning,
reeling on the heels of its roots from
the storm of my passings
to and through the siren street of girls

that had begun to
matter, biked on banana seats, pennants
of ponytails blowing straight out with speed,
halter-topped and flip-flopped
on porches and swings, legs dangling, hips on
easy swivels, all caught
in my weather eye now alert
for aunts in station wagons with cousins
in the wayback
tattling my doings on Main Street –  
my doorway duckings sweet
with the penny cheap and forbidden.

I curled my copper
across the counter, bagged up the delights
 – red hots, gumdrops, pop rocks – and took the road
at pace, trailing spindrift.
Dogged was I in the red hot noon.
Speed made my eyes turn crows
on fields into black flecks on green
and delivered me to trails steep, stumped and
canopied with 
leaves, dappled down to the kettle pond,
where the trout-skin surface
sparkled and mottled me with wet light,

where the dark depths cooled
all ten of my growth rings. Then into the
warm wrinkled palm of the inlet cupping
the up-going tide, the
up-flying heron, or drawing the tide
 and the heron’s head down
into the vapors of dead low
seeping. Twilight drew the moth of me to
the ballpark, to
the picnicking crowd loud as lights, then
the race through the soldier’s
cemetery, the Union undead

on my heels, their toy
tin replicas buried in my pocket,
the murmur and tang of moss at my back.
Downhill I javelined home
towards the gabled cottage beacon-bright,
past the reaching branches
of the spruce, beseeching and blue.
The moon, widow-walking the roof ridge, rose
in high relief
on my return. Spent I was as the
night air stung me, but my
body glowed mighty with my decade. 

Now was time for the whip-poor-wills and owls,
whose tongues I spoke
from the ground nest of my bed and the pine
perch of my windowsill,
from where I oracled a boy’s tomorrow.



When an envy of mermaids
beached itself,
my daughters set about
rescuing them
from certain death
or something worse.
I suspect that they administered
a kind of serum
passed from hands to scales
in palmed cups of seawater.
No man can comprehend this,
of course.
Nor could I decode
what they spoke to the revived,
but figured it must have been
gentle dissuasion.
One by one, the flopping subsided
and they let themselves
be dragged seaward
by the hands,
their limp tails leaving trails
in the sand
and slicks of oil
flecked with glitter.
They sank at the surf line
with what must have been resignation.
I imagine that they recovered
under the breaking waves
and darted through kelp curtains
into the familiar.
Later, my girls reported
that they heard keening
while they were diving for shells.
They explained
that it was less a protest
than a peal of regret.



She’s wearing it in the color photograph,
mid-stride across the courtyard
of a philanthropist’s chateau
or some ambassador’s terrace.

The hemline is the era’s,
the neckline of her own design.
Her calf, raised and taut,
positions the kitten heel

to strike the cobblestone chord perfectly.
The horizon line, epic in the background,
serves her purpose.
She appears so comfortable in it,

so charmed and charming.
The light and the lens conspire
to match it to her eyes just then,
which is certainly why she bought it –

for that event,
so that grace and gravitas
would promenade on the pinhead
of that snapped second,

of the aperture that limits the quantity of light
on who she is,
now a revealed shard of her civility,
of her self.

Today, it slouches
on a hanger in your closet,
except when you open all the windows
to make it move in the breeze.


Let’s place our sand dollars
on the porch railing for a while
until the sun mints them in white.

Let’s string them together
with fine, clear filament,
with fishing line,

so they will hang like coins caught
in the instant of dropping
from some high hand,

so they will imply
that we only spent them
on time.



Never such harmony at home
as when our place and our people
join at the violet hour
and make and break bread
beneath a sheltering sky
under a star-strung strand of tiny lights
when each savory word
gets its just desserts in sweet reply,
while the glasses chime the time
and laughter is the subject and the object,
where conversation warms
the irises of eyes
until they bloom, internally lit,
then bouquet into affection
when they lean towards the candlelight.

After the moon and the jazz,
the carillon of peepers in the pond,
and the rosining of crickets' bows
have wheeled us onward,
after the fireflies have flicked
their lighters in the crowd,
and the June bugs have clung
to the screen doors
for their last swig of lampshine,
we find ourselves
in the awaited province of the night
to which we have traveled
so that honesty,
that nocturnal thing,
will come to eat from our hands.