On a day of bone-cracking cold,

with the sun caught in a slough of blue

like a wide-mouth bass suspended

in the depths of a frozen pond,

the dog snuffled the snow

with incredulity, boggled by the shock

to canine reason that made the need

to pee recede, forgotten,

while in pink-cheeked impatience,

I wondered how long before I froze

where I stood and became a

hitching post tied to a dog

who might not go until Spring.

Then I heard the chip chip chip

of a cardinal as it leapt from ground

to branch and branch to ground

within the shelter of a holly,

and turning, saw the leaves shiver

with the movement and shed

their white coat which fell soft

and slow and seemed like melting,

yet beneath, the ground was dry.

Moses came to mind, polished

smooth from millenia of retelling

how a bush burned without burning

and the frosty heart of Pharaoh broke.

Tethered to my frittering dog,

I put off my shoes, just in case.

©  dana hughes  1.30.14

Opposable Thumbs

It may have been around the time the coelacanth flopped ashore;

closed it’s gills to water breathing to suck the dry primordial air,

shivered with evolutionary purpose, and stood, stiff-finned–

and walked toward feet with toes and fingered hands,

that the thumb first appeared.

Perhaps like a flounder’s traveling eye it started here and ended there,

better suited to the opposable position from which it spawned

the fist, the grasp, the cerebral cortex and politics,

for it is in the exertion of the thumb against

the fingers that the hand holds,

just as the naming of those against whom one struggles

for ascendance begets us versus them.

One cannot be had without the other.


©   dana hughes    1.14.14

Lost in Translation


Last night the cicadas held a concert in the backyard,

singing Stravinsky and a bit of Bartok,

and other symphonic pieces transposed for insect choir.


By morning they were spent; gone to their cicada bower

high in the leafy realm to rest their voices.

Yet one remained, trilling a desperate measure of Strauss

as a mockingbird caught her by the wings.


All afternoon the mockingbird sings a reprise

of the cicada’s lament, unmindful in her mimicry

that her interpretation is too bright and bouncy

for words of such fervent pleading:

Lassen Sie mich gehen! O ließ mich gehen!

Let me go!  O let me go!


©  dana  hughes