It took a while to remember,

in fact it wasn’t until today that it came back

with a flash like heat lightening in an August sky, 

that day when I was twelve, and other girls were

women already, smug in their menses and messes,

and I was slow, and they called me slow,

still a girl with baby teeth and the fabric

of my blouse smooth and undisturbed,

but i had a fountain pen with peacock blue ink

in slender cartridges that were slipped into the barrel

and screwed down tight, and on this remembered day,

after i loaded my mouth as well as my pen,

sliding one cartridge between my teeth to chew,

preferring the cool, pliant plastic

to the splintered shaft of pencils,

the cartridge burst, and peacock blue ran

from the corners of my mouth and dribbled down my chin 

in a shocking flow, and though tongue-dyed,

fully-fledged words spilled out, and i spoke ink.


© dana hughes 4.24.14

An Idle Tale

Watching a skink skitter off the porch

where its night-slowed blood was licked

to life by hot tongues of morning sun,

so that at the sound of my toes in the grass

he shot into the shadows, forsaking his tail–

that living sliver of lapis left with necessary

detachment like the too-heavy child on the

refugee road or an offering to a hungry god,

I wondered aloud to the abandoned tail

how long it planned to wiggle

and did it think that I thought that it was all?

Right about then, my thoughts twitched back

to Peter, sitting cold with the thick-blooded

ten in a shuttered room when Mary came

running with a tale they called idle,

lacking the curiosity to come close and see

the quivering piece of truth she carried,

while back in the garden where the sun shone

on a heaved over stone, the part without the tale,

warmed and quickened, and moved on.


© dana hughes 4.20.14

Old Man With Cracker

In a booth in a corner of a diner beside a woman

with smooth skin an old man sat with a cracker

in one hand and a knife tipped with butter

in the other, and he buttered that cracker from

north to south and east to west and all points in

between and though he seemed to listen to the

woman while she talked and pushed things around

on her plate, it was clear he was preoccupied

as he worked the butter into every dimple,

enveloping each grain of salt in a creamy

coat so that the cracker nearly groaned with desire for

consummation, methodically working ever-outward

’til he reached the edge and stopped, his thoughts

drifting perhaps to a time when sailors lived with the

fear of sailing over the brink so their ships plied the

bounding main of sky and nothing more, and what

sort of shout would the good mates give to signal

the need to come about, as though ‘man overboard’

could be expanded to include an entire vessel gone

past the boundary of of the sea, but then, half-smiling,

he considered that if the cracker was the earth

and the earth wasn’t flat after all,

he was going to need a whole lot more butter.


© dana hughes 4.16.14

Truth Be Told

This secret I’ve harbored has ossified,

basted with denial until hardened and smooth,

to sit in my heart like bone with no sharp edges

to prick my flesh or my conscience,

until I heard the people shouting in the streets,

and I knew it was starting all over again;

the parade, the waving, your winsome smile,

the knowledge that this is the end

and not the beginning, and suddenly

within the heart’s bone that I carry

there is movement as it pips and breaks free

and I confess at last it was me who betrayed you.


I took the silver but he took the blame, and when

you sent him on the mission unlike all the others’,

I hurried ahead to make sure it was done.

In the grove where the others slept and

you begged God for a change of plan,

I stood watch, guarding against a change

in yours, and when the time came with

torchlight through the trees, I gave the signal

with a kiss, but not on the cheek as the story goes;

it was full on your mouth,

and I tasted your sweat and fear,

and you tasted mine,

Then I melted into darkness with the others, and

before the rooster awoke I denied you completely.

I called for your death, and I stripped and

beat you, then washed my hands and nailed

you down. On the cross beside you I cursed

your complacence, and I stood in the shadows

holding my breath ‘til you breathed no more.


I despise this turning of the seasons, when it all

comes round once more;  you in your resolve to die

and me in mine to make it so.  It’s a horror,

but it will always be the same; I’ve kept the

bloodied crown for you to wear again,

and I confess, though you know it well,

that it’s me.  I crucify you.


© dana s. hughes 4.5.14

At The Viewing

Peering inside the awful box

where the remains of an ancient uncle lay

overdressed and painted like a floozy,

I realized the conceit of morticians;


The pallid skin is spackled

a florid tint and sunken cheeks pinked

to comfort the family with the appearance of sleep,

but the hair parted wrong catches the greiving eye

and testifies that no matter how peaceful he looks,

he doesn’t look himself beacause he’s not;

himself is not just dead but gone.


All that’s left wears the wrong pair of glasses

perched on his nose forevermore

–not prescription but readers–

suggesting time and books wait on the far shore,

thus turning comfort curious

and prompting me to wonder;

what’s he reading now?


© dana hughes 4.10.14


Rotating as it always does and tipping toward the sun

the earth draws a final frosty breath and exhales spring;

green erupts to the blue song of jays and poplars unfurl

their fluttering leaves like Lazarus shedding his shroud.


Amid the wildness, the lenten rose bends its heavy head

downward, listening to the sound beneath sound, a rumbling

counterpoint to the clamor of joy, carried through clay and

pushed through wormholes ’til it finds the air and becomes


the squabble of timber and saw, one protesting the bite

of the other; the clangor of iron and hammer,

spitting sparks as a point is made;the bray of a beast that

waits for its rider in the city that kills prophets.


The earth spins on while the season sings and the lenten rose

bears witness to the death that always comes in the spring.


© dana hughes 4.7.14